Matadors Wrap Up Road Swing With Straight-Set Loss at Sixth-Ranked USC

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Cal State Northridge wrapped up a season-opening five-match road swing with a straight-set loss (25-16, 25-16, 25-23) at sixth-ranked USC Friday night at Galen Center. Freshman Julius Höefer led the Matadors with nine kills in the loss.

The 11th-ranked Matadors are now 1-4 to open the season for the first time since 1999 and are 0-2 in the MPSF for the first time since 2006.

Höefer had nine kills in 22 swings but committed six errors to hit .136. Matt Stork and Greg Faulkner each added five kills while Jared Moore came off the bench to also put down five kills while hitting .714 in seven attacks. In addition to Moore, John Baker (4 kills, .222) and Brandon Lebrock (3 kills, .600) came off the bench to provide a spark in the third set.

As a team, the Matadors hit .176, the third time in five matches Northridge has hit below .200. Conversely, the Trojans hit .388 while also out-digging the Matadors 29-19.   

"We lacked cohesiveness tonight and when we put in some subs in game three we showed some fight," said head coach Jeff Campbell. "The first two games we didn't compete very well and that's disappointing but USC is a great team but we need to get better and we will be better the next time we play them."

A USC hitting error gave the Matadors an early 3-1 lead in the opening set and Northridge still led 5-4 when USC scored four unanswered to open up an 8-5 forcing the Matadors into an early timeout. Northridge crept within two at 8-6 and agains at 9-7 before a pair of Matador hitting errors boosted the Trojan lead back to four at 11-7. The USC swelled to as many as eight points at 20-12 before Northridge put together a late rally to pull within 22-17 following a pair of Höefer kills. But the Trojans outscored the Matadors 3-1 over the final four points to claim the frame 25-18.

Set two was tight with neither team leading by more than two points until back-to-back Northridge hitting errors put USC up 16-13. The Matadors stayed within two on a Brandon Lebrock kill at 16-14 and Faulkner's put-away at 17-15 but the Trojans took advantage of some sloppy Northridge play late to open up a 20-15 lead. Another Höefer kill temporarily cut the lead to 20-16 but the Matadors would not score again as USC went up two sets with the 25-16 win.

Northridge took the court in set three looking to extend the match to a fourth set. With the score tied at 10-10, consecutive Baker kills and a Trojan hitting error put the Matadors up 13-10 forcing USC into a timeout. The Northridge lead was four at 19-15 before a Lebrock kill gave the Matadors their largest lead of the night 20-15. A 3-0 USC run trimmed the lead to 20-18 but the Matadors claimed two of the next three points to retain a 22-19 lead following a Faulkner kill. But a Steven Mochalski kill on the ensuing point propelled the Trojans on a set-deciding 5-0 run that turned a 22-19 defecit into a 24-22 USC lead. Following a Trojan service error, Tony Ciarelli put away a kill after a rally giving the Trojans the 25-22 victory.

Tanner Jansen led USC with 14 kills (.476) while Ciarelli added 13 kills (.417) and five digs.

After five straight road matches, Cal State Northridge opens the 2012 home schedule next Friday, Jan. 20th against the Long Beach State 49ers. First serve in The Matadome is scheduled for 7 p.m.