W-Vball: CSUN’s inconsistencies dooms them at No. 6 UCLA

Alonso Tacanga

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Matadors Sam Kaul (15) and Una Siljegovic (16) attempt to a block against Bruin Olivia Okoro (7) during Monday night's 3-0 loss at UCLA. Photo Credit: Tessie Navarro/ Visual Editor

The mere prospect of taking a single set from a powerhouse had the Matadors feeling chipper midway through the third set of their Monday night match-up against almighty, No. 6 UCLA.

Then, disaster.

“UCLA woke up and it didn’t end up being our best game,” CSUN middle blocker Casey Hinger said.

At times, it looked like it could be a match to remember for CSUN, but “inconsistencies,” as CSUN head coach Jeff Stork deemed it, cheated the Matadors (6-5) into a 3-0 loss at Collins Court.

Following a block from Matador middle blocker Sam Kaul, which had CSUN up 9-4 and a subsequent UCLA timeout, the Matadors walked off the court with ear-to-ear smiles. Already down 2-0 and wanting to at least take a set from the Bruins, the moment was theirs to seize.

It didn’t work out that way. UCLA scored 21 of the next 29 points, won with a sweep for the fifth time in 2011 and called it a night.

“It was a complete breakdown,” Stork said. “It’s not UCLA or anyone else. It’s our team and how we handle ourselves in those situations. I’m not real happy right now.”

The breakdown seemed to come at the same time as the Bruins began to click as the sixth-best team in the country should.  With CSUN leading 14-8 in the set, UCLA went on a 10-0 run to take back control and ruin whatever positive the Matadors could have taken from the match.

“It just got in our heads,” said Hinger, who led CSUN in kills with seven. “We made a mistake and errors just kept piling on us.”

It wasn’t like that the whole game. The Matadors started the night with seemingly no respect for UCLA, getting out to a 5-1 lead in the first set while looking like the better team. They kept up the façade for most of the set, even forcing UCLA head coach Michael Sealy to spring off his chair and call for time after one of his team’s multiple first-set errors made it 13-9 CSUN.

Whatever speech Sealy had for his team, it worked. UCLA appeared to remember its pedigree and began to slowly chop at Northridge’s lead. A 10-4 run following the game pause had the Bruins up on top at 19-17 and in control for the first time in the night.

A few moments later, UCLA had won the first set 25-22.

Set No. 2 was more of the same, with the Matadors fighting toe-to-toe with UCLA until they transformed into a lesser-capable team. CSUN was within 16-15 until a streak of errors allowed the Bruins to go on a 9-2 set-ending run.

“We still worked hard and I have no doubt we’re just going to go up from here,” Hanger said.

CSUN kills’ leader Mahina Haina took the loss gracefully and said that while she recognized they needed to “work on the inconsistencies,” that the Matadors will be “fine.” Haina had six kills, but none in the third set, when the Matadors had the golden opportunity of the season so far go to waste.

“It was a good game up until that point,” she said.

UCLA was led by outside hitter Rachel Kidder, who had 13 kills – six of them in the first set.  Kaul chipped in with six kills while setter Sydney Gedryn had 25 assists for CSUN.

Defensively, libero Cindy Ortiz had 19 digs, but only four in the last set.

Now, with BYU visiting the Matadome on Saturday at 1 p.m., CSUN will have to regroup and hope for the mistakes to go down gradually before the conference season starts.

“We’ve beaten some good teams, but when we get up against a more dominant opponent like UCLA and USC, we create too many errors and give a good opponent too many points,” Stork said. “We can’t do that.”