MALIBU, Calif. — A 39-37 first-set loss set the tone for a playoff-like atmosphere in the Matadors 3-1 loss (39-37, 30-27,26-30, 30-28) to No. 1 Pepperdine Friday night at the Firestone Fieldhouse.
“We battled hard, it was a great team effort,” redshirt freshman opposite hitter John Baker said. “It was that first game that slip away and it kind of set the tone but we bounce back and fought back… they hit well, we should have blocked better but that’s volleyball.”
For the second consecutive match, Baker led four Matador players in double figure kills, finishing with a career-high 19 kills. Senior middle blockers Jacek Ratajczak and Kevin McKniff added 18 and 17 a piece, while senior outside hitter Theo Edwards had 13.
“He (Baker) hit .311 on 40-something sets. That was great that is exactly what we need,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “A guy who puts the ball away on a consistent bases, he served not as well as he did against SC but he still did a nice job and we are really happy with the way he is performing… if he keeps that up we are going to be in good shape.”
The No. 5 Matadors (12-5, 9-5 MPSF) stormed out the gate in the first set getting out to a 10-5 lead highlighted by a combined block by Ratajczak and senior outside hitter Mike Guadino that forced Pepperdine (9-4, 8-3 MPSF) head coach Marv Dunphy to call a timeout.
The Waves responded after the timeout by going on an 8-4 run that cut the Matador lead down to one at 12-11 and forced coach Campbell to call a timeout of his own.
CSUN went on a 4-0 spurt after the timeout to push the lead back 16-11. The Matadors stretch their lead to as many as six (23-17), but Pepperdine answered back with another run this time a 9-3 run that tied the frame at 26, setting up a back and forth set the rest of the way.
24 points, 12 lead changes and 11 tie scores later; Pepperdine won the set on a kill by junior outside hitter Cory Reicks.
“Northridge is a great team. They been rank No. 1 most of the year, and I tell you, I thought Matt Stork set the middles really well and we couldn’t stop them,” Dunphy said. “It is a credit to them, we couldn’t stop them and we just got a couple of lucky breaks.”
In the second set CSUN fell behind early by three and got within two but were unable to take the lead in the frame and eventually lost the set 30-27.
Down two sets, the Matadors battled back in the third set and went up by seven late in the set at 25-18 but the Waves made it tough down the stretch getting within 27-25 before losing the frame 30-26.
The Matadors had an early 10-8 lead in the fourth set but Pepperdine responded with a quick 2-0 spurt that tied the game. The match turned into a back and forth affair from that point on, split the next 19 points until back to back points from the Waves broke the string. The Matadors tied the set at 27 only to see the frame slip away as the Waves won three of the four points to win the set and match 30-28.
“We did bounce back and we did start to play better after the first set which was great,” Campbell said. “We end up losing a really tight four game match and it could have gone either way and they got a couple breaks and we didn’t.”