FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Cal State Northridge continued to show its collective fortitude as the Matadors won their third consecutive five-set match Friday over Idaho (18-25, 25-23, 25-16, 22-25, 15-8) in the opening match of the Fiesta Bowl Tournament at Rolle Activity Center.
Coming off an undefeated last weekend that saw them go the distance in wins over Rice and Fresno State, the Matadors (4-0) had to battle through another five-setter Friday against former Big West foe Idaho.
Junior Natalie Allen, the tournament MVP in Fresno, proved to be a difference maker again Friday night as she led the Matadors across the board with a career-high 23 kills (.370), 18 digs and six blocks.
"Natalie played very well for us again tonight," said CSUN head coach Jeff Stork. "She was kind of doing everything, hitting, serving and passing. She's deceptively effecient, when she touches the ball good things happen a majority of the time."
Allen was one of four Matador hitters to register double figures in kills as senior Mahina Haina had 14 kills (.050) while Cieana Stinson (.391) and Casey Hinger (.250) each added 11. Kelcie Randazzo joined Allen with double digits in digs with 12 as CSUN out-dug the Vandals 69-56.
The Matadors were done in by a 6-0 run midway through the opening set as they struggled in hitting .139. After a sluggish start to the second set, Stork turned to sophomore setter Steffi Miller who had a career-high 40 assists in subbing for starter Sydney Gedryn.
CSUN responded by closing out set two 25-23 and dominated set three 25-16 behind a .400 hitting clip.
"The offense was a little out of rhythm and the team kind of rallied around Steffi who ran an effective offense," added Stork.
After the two teams battled to 20-20 in set four, the Vandals rallied to take five of the final seven points and win the fourth going away 25-22. The fifth and deciding set went back-and-forth with the Matadors overcoming an early 7-5 deficit. Idaho led 8-7 at the changeover when Brooke Dawson provided a spark sending CSUN on a match-deciding 8-0 run to wrap up the set 15-8.
"We played very well at the end with the run of eight points," said Stork. "We dictated the play, created opportunities and converted those opportunities. We've got to fine tunes things a little bit and stay in system a little longer."
Jessica Hastriter led the Vandals (3-2) with 17 kills (.256) while Katelyn Peterson added 13 (.225).
Cal State Northridge plays its second match Saturday at noon as the Matadors take on San Diego State. The tournament concludes Saturday at 7 p.m. as CSUN takes on the host Northern Arizona Lumberjacks.
NOTES: The Matadors open a season 4-0 for the first time since 2001 ... No stranger to five-set matches, CSUN went the distance eight times in 2012 winning five. The Matadors are now 3-0 in five-set matches this season ... Jeff Stork moved within two wins of the his 150th victory as the CSUN head coach.
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