Northridge looked as if it was going to cruise to its second win of the season over the UC San Diego Tritons (6-16, 4-13) after hitting .500 in the opening set of Friday’s match.
CSUN’s hitting dropped off considerably in the following sets as Northridge (8-13, 4-10 MPSF) dropped the next three frames and lost 19-25, 30-28, 25-18, 25-21.
“We played more steady last game,” said sophomore Brandon Lebrock, referring to CSUN’s win at UCSD on Feb. 24. “We could have spread the ball a little more. After the second game, there was a couple of bad calls, we just put our heads down after that and it didn’t seem like we wanted to fight back.”
The Matadors controlled the pace throughout most of the first set and held the lead with great offensive performances from junior John Baker and Lebrock.
UC San Diego evened up the score but well-placed shots by Lebrock put the Matadors ahead on multiple occasions while the defensive performance of Moore added two block assists to Northridge’s six in the frame.
The Matadors allowed the Tritons to even the score at 15 apiece before pulling away in the second half of the set and earning the 25-19 win.
“We came out with confidence in the first game,” Lebrock said. “We knew we beat them before so we came out ready to beat them.”
Baker and Lebrock combined for eight kills on 13 swings while redshirt freshman Kyle Stevenson added two kills.
“We controlled the momentum and they were forced to play on our territory,” Baker said. “It’s hard for the other team to be able to compete and be able to go at that rate … we played well [in the first set].”
CSUN struggled to keep up with the Tritons early on in the second set although UC San Diego only hit .130 in the frame.
Northridge was down by as many as five at one point but fought back to even the score at 21-21.
The Tritons battled back to even the score at 24 apiece, but a missed shot that flew long and a botched Matador match point sent the frame to extra points.
CSUN took a one-point lead, but a questionable net call in the following point evened the set up once again.
“I thought I hit the ball off the block and the ref didn’t call it,” Lebrock said. “We kept playing but they got a couple chances and they took advantage of it.”
The Tritons pulled ahead again with another questionable call that brought CSUN head coach Jeff Campbell off his chair. Campbell disputed that one of the UCSD players had touched a Matador attack that landed out of bounds, but the ref called it a CSUN attack error. The point gave San Diego the edge and the Tritons closed the set with the next point, taking the frame 30-28.
“That’s going to happen in volleyball,” Baker said about the questionable calls. “We’ve had some go our way this season so we can’t put that on the ref. The call was the call and we had to accept that and not dwell on that.”
The Matadors exchanged points early in the third set, but again were unable to side out and were forced into a timeout after falling behind 12-8.
The Tritons continued to dominate the net and took the third set 25-18 behind a Carl Eberts five-kill performance in the frame. UCSD hit for an astounding .467 hitting percentage compared to the Matadors’ .000.
The hitting woes carried over to the fourth set for the Matadors as they quickly fell behind 8-3.
The presence of freshman Julius Hoefer sparked the CSUN offense and the comeback attempt. The Matadors forced a Tritons’ timeout after Northridge drew within two, but the UCSD offense continued to find holes in the Matadors’ defense and extended the lead to five.
A pair of service errors late in the set put a halt to any potential Matador comebacks en route to the Tritons taking the fourth, 25-21, and the match, 3-1.
CSUN hit better than the Tritons in the frame, but four service errors cost Northridge in the end despite Hoefer’s five kills.
The Matadors committed 10 service errors in the match. Their .189 hitting throughout was no match for UCSD. Lebrock ended with 18 kills on .196 hitting while Baker added 10 on the night.
“Any team in this league can beat us,” Lebrock said. “We just have to play our hardest. We have to forget about this game and prepare for Hawaii next week.”