Matadors Drop Tough Four-Set Decision to No. 3 Long Beach State

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge looked poised to force a fifth-set against third-ranked Long Beach State before the visiting 49ers rolled off four straight points to seal a 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-23 victory Friday night at The Matadome.

The Matadors (7-6, 5-6 MPSF) looked to wrap up their season-long, five-match homestand on a winning note but instead were handed their second loss in five matches. Neither team hit particularly well as Long Beach State hit .231 while CSUN hit .152. The two teams also combined for 30 service errors while connecting for just five aces.

"We didn't have a sense of urgency," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "But a lot of that was caused by Long Beach, they had a lot of missed serves in game one but served much better in games two, three and four. They got on some big runs and we didn't respond, we didn't pass well enough in games two, three and four. We scored enough points tonight but we just weren't able to sideout consistently."

Senior John Baker led the Matadors with a team-high 14 kills (.216) while junior Brandon Lebrock added 12 kills but hit just .030 in 33 swings. Lebrock also matched libero Nick Alegrado for team-high honors with six digs apiece. Redshirt freshman Sam Holt came off the bench to put down eight kills (.182) and senior Jared Moore chipped in seven kills (.312), a match-high nine blocks and two aces.

Northridge trailed only twice in set one, early at 5-4 and later at 17-16. Kills from Baker and Kyle Stevenson put the Matadors back in front to stay (18-17) and despite the 49ers tying the score at 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22, CSUN got a kill from Baker, a Taylor Crabb hitting error and a Moore-Baker block on set point.

The Matadors then failed to capitalize on the momentum as Long Beach bolted to an early 12-6 lead. Another Baker kill capped a 6-3 Matador run which cut the lead to 15-12. Then after getting within three points on a trio of occasions, CSUN got a Moore service ace to cut the lead to one at 22-21. But the Matadors would not score again as the 49ers got a kill followed by a pair of blocks to post the 25-22 win.

Long Beach led virtually the entire third set and led by as many as five at 16-11. Consecutive kills from Holt and Baker capped a 4-1 Matador run to keep CSUN within striking distance at 17-15. Northridge still trailed by two at 19-17 when the 49ers scored four unanswered to open up a 23-17 cushion. Three straight Long Beach miscues had the Matadors within three at 23-20 but the 49ers closed the set on a Crabb kill.

The Matadors played catch-up again in the final frame, overcoming a 14-10 Long Beach lead. Back-to-back 49er miscues put CSUN up 17-16 and the teams would then trade sideouts until 21-21. A Dalton Ammerman hitting error and a Holt kill gave the Matadors a 23-21 lead but with Lebrock serving, Jeff Ornee connected for a kill pulling the 49ers within 23-22. CSUN could not sideout from that point on as Ornee's kill fuled a set-clinching 4-0 run for the Beach.

Crabb pounded a match-high 22 kills (.368) to pace Long Beach State (12-4, 10-3 MPSF) which also received 11 kills (.200) from Ammerman. 49ers setter Connor Olbright handed out 47 assists to go with eight digs in the win.

Cal State Northridge heads out on the road for its next two matches as the Matadors travel to Hawaii to take on the Warriors Mar. 1 and 3.