Matadors Fall to Pepperdine 25-18, 25-19, 16-25, 26-24 in MPSF Opener

MALIBU, Calif. - 11th-ranked Cal State Northridge dropped its MPSF season opener to No. 10 Pepperdine 25-18, 25-19, 16-25, 26-24 Wednesday night at Firestone Fieldhouse.

The Matadors (1-3, 0-1 MPSF), who had won two of their last three matches on Pepperdine's home court, dug themselves a two-set hole before dominating set three and nearly forcing a fifth set. Northridge staved off a match point at 24-23 in the fourth frame on a Julius Hoefer kill before a John Baker service error and a Maurice Torres kill gave Pepperdine the match with the 26-24 win.

"Obviously we're disappointed in the loss," said head coach Jeff Campbell. "Since it was our first league match on the road and with so many new and young players we had the jitters a little bit in the first two games but we played much better in games three and four. We worked some things out, I thought we fought and played hard but at this point now we turn our focus to USC."

Höefer was the offensive stalwart for the Matadors putting down a team-high 21 kills while hitting .298 in 47 swings. Senior Matt Stork and sophomore Greg Faulkner each chipped in eight kills with Faulkner hitting .538 on 13 attacks. Faulkner also posted a team-high five blocks (all assisted) while setter Filip Tomicic dished out 42 assists as Northridge hit .243 as a team.

The Matadors came out flat in the opening two sets hitting a combined .163 while falling by scores of 25-18, 25-19. Höefer's attack tipped the net and fell out of bounds giving Pepperdine an early 4-1 lead in the opening set and the Waves never looked back. The lead grew to five (10-5) on a Tomicic hitting error before the Matadors outscored Pepperdine 7-2 over the next nine points to pull within 12-10 following a Drew Staker-Tomicic co-block. But the Waves extended their lead to seven (18-11) following a 6-1 run highlighted by back-to-back blocks from Torres and Matt Pollack and the Matadors didn't threaten the rest of the way.

The Waves hit a blistering .667 in the opening set while the Matadors struggled to a .143 clip. Set two was just slightly better for the Matadors as they hit .190 while Pepperdine cooled off a bit to hit .350 but still won going away 25-19.

Needing to win the final three sets, Northridge opened set three by scoring five of the first six points and would not trail in the set. The Matadors hit a match-high .357 and opened up an 11-4 cushion following the second of two Stork kills. Pepperdine battled back to within 14-10 before Northridge bumped its lead back to six (16-10) following a Höefer kill and a Wave hitting error. Another Pepperdine hitting error gave the Matadors their largest lead of the set at 21-12 before setting for the 25-16 win.

Looking to extend the match to a fifth set, Northridge took an 11-7 lead following back-to-back Pepperdine miscues. The Matadors still led by four at 12-8 before CSUN was whistled for a net violation and a Wave co-block cut the lead to 12-10. The Matadors held the lead until Höefer's attack was stuffed by Pollack and Josh Taylor giving Pepperdine the lead at 19-18. The lead then changed hands four times down the stretch before the Waves scored the final two points to secure the match.

Josh Taylor led Pepperdine with a match-high 22 kills (.293) while Torres added 16 (.393). Setter Matt West handed out 42 assists as the Waves wound up hitting .318 as a team.

Cal State Northridge continues its conference-opening road trip Friday as the Matadors head to sixth-ranked USC. First serve at the Galen Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.