NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge got its serving and blocking together in the nick of time as the ninth-ranked Matadors held off the upset bid of Cal Baptist 25-15, 25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 15-3 in a non-conference match Friday night at The Matadome.
The Matadors (3-5) took the first two sets in relatively easy fashion before the Lancers (1-5) caught fire in sets three and four to force a decisive fifth set. Behind the serving of senior Matt Stork in the fifth frame, Northridge won 13 of the first 14 points and eventually won the match with a dominating 15-3 victory.
"The biggest difference between games one and two and then games three and four was that we just could not stop them," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "This game is mental and there's a tendency to take it easy after you win the first two games, like we did, and if you ever ease up it allows the other team to get involved in the game and they took advantage of that."
Freshman opposite Julius Hoefer again provided the offense for Northridge as he put down a team-high 18 kills while hitting .485 in 33 swings. Hoefer also added six digs and five blocks while Stork chipped in 14 kills (.345), three aces and six digs. Jared Moore was effective again in the middle adding nine kills in 16 errorless attacks (.562) while also contributing one ace and five blocks, three co-blocks coming in the fifth set. Sophomore Brandon Lebrock also hit well with seven kills in nine swings with just one error (.667).
Starting against his former team, sophomore setter Filip Tomicic registered a Northridge season-high 54 assists while the Matadors hit a staggering .500 (59-8-102) as a team. Northridge had just three aces while committing 22 service errors but won the blocking battle with 9.0 team blocks to just 2.0 for Cal Baptist.
The first two sets were largely uneventful as set one featured a single early lead change while the Matadors led from start to finish in set two. Then looking to close out the Lancers in three, Northridge tied the score at 4-4 early on another Hoefer kill. But that was as close as the Matadors would get as Cal Baptist used a 5-1 run midway through the frame to open up a 16-10 lead. Northridge battled back to within four at 22-18 after Hoefer found a seam but behind the play of Aaron McCalmont, Cal Baptist took the set 25-19.
McCalmont continued his torrid hitting in set four as he added eight kills to his match-high 19 kills on the night. A Lancer service error pulled the Matadors even at 2-2 early on before a McCalmont kill gave Cal Baptist the lead for good. The Lancers led by as many as four at 13-9 and again at 14-10 before Northridge mounted a late charge to get within 19-18 following a Moore kill. The Matadors also crept within one at 22-21, 23-22 and 24-23 but McCalmont cashed in set point with his 19th and final kill of the match.
What followed was the rare occurrence of a team being held without a kill the entire fifth set. A Tomicic service error gave the Lancers the opening point setting the stage for Stork's heroics from the service line. After committing six previous errors from the service line, Stork served tough ball after tough ball keeping Cal Baptist off balance the entire frame.
The Matadors then began to key on McCalmont stuffing three of his attacks and two by middle Kristopher Johnson on the way to a 9-1 lead. Hoefer and Cory Wagner filled in with kills and the Lancers were down 13-1 before a Johnson-Jonathan Tuttle block gave Cal Baptist the only point it would earn in the set (the other coming on a Moore service error). A kill by Stork on match point kept the Matadors unbeaten in two matches at home this season.
In addition to McCalmont, Johnson added 11 kills (.300) and Joseph Fitzpatrick chipped in 10 kills (.350). The Lancers wound up hitting .207 (49-25-116) as a team.
Cal State Northridge returns to the road next week as the Matadors head to Long Beach State on Friday, Feb. 3 for their only match of the week.
- GO MATADORS -