NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - After winning the first set, ninth-ranked Cal State Northridge watched as the visiting third-ranked UC Irvine Anteaters won the final three sets in a 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-13 victory in an MPSF match Wednesday at The Matadome.
The Matadors (3-2, 1-2 MPSF) had their three-match win streak snapped by the Anteaters (5-3, 2-3 MPSF) who also extended their recent dominance over CSUN to seven straight. The loss was also the Matadors' first in four home matches this season.
Northridge looked good early on as the Matadors overcame an early 8-5 deficit to knot the score at 13-13 following a Drew Staker kill. With the score tied at 16-16, UCI posted three straight kills to open up a 19-16 cushion before a Brandon Lebrock kill ended the run. The Anteaters still led 19-18 when back-to-back kills from Staker and John Baker gave the Matadors their first lead of the frame. Following a timeout, UCI got a kill from Connor Hughes to even the score and UCI would also tie at 21-21 before Staker took over.
The senior middle put down consecutive kills then stuffed a Kevin Tillie attack giving CSUN set point at 24-22. After an Anteater kill, Jared Moore's attack found the floor and the Matadors took set one 25-23.
The turned out to be the bright spot for Northridge as its serving and passing played a large role over the final three sets. After hitting .324 in set one, the Matadors struggled to find any offensive rhythm in set two as they could muster just a -.087 hitting clip. The Anteaters fared a bit better hitting .185 and blew open a tight 8-6 game and led by as many as seven (20-13) before setting on the 25-19 final.
The third set started out in a similar fashion to set one as neither team led by more than two points until a Tille kill gave UCI a three-point cushion at 17-14. A Moore kill temporarily pulled CSUN within 17-15 but a Matador service error, one of 20 on the night for CSUN, a pair of hitting errors and a UCI kill boosted the Anteater lead to 21-15 and they would never look back.
Despite hitting a match-high .381 in the final set, the Matadors were no match for UCI which hit a staggering .737 with 15 kills and one error in 19 efficient swings. Their hitting effort in winning set four 25-13 propelled the Anteaters to a .377 clip for the match. Northridge wound up hitting .235 but according to head coach Jeff Campbell the loss came down to serving and passing.
"In game one we battled, we served and passed really well and were able to pull out the win," said Campbell. "But in games two three and four, we could have won with our serving but we couldn't pass. They served well and they affected us and we could never get any momentum or put a rally together. In order to win in this league you have to serve and pass and we did not do that tonight."
Junior Brandon Lebrock paced the Matadors with 15 kills (.200) to go with two digs, one ace and one block. Staker and Moore both were effective in the middle as Staker put down a season-high nine kills while hitting .389 in 18 swings. Moore had five kills in 10 swings to hit .400 and the two combined for six blocks with Staker recording two solo stuffs.
John Baker added eight kills but hit just .095 while setter Travis Magorien had 36 assists and four digs in the loss.
For UC Irvine, Tillie led three Anteater hitters in double figures with a match-high 17 kills (.542). Hughes added 13 (.357) and Jeremy Dejno chipped in 12 (.171).
Cal State Northridge heads out on the road for its next three matches beginning Friday at No. 12 UC San Diego. First serve at RIMAC Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -