IRVINE, Calif. - 15th-ranked Cal State Northridge fell in straight sets (25-15, 25-22, 25-23) to fourth-ranked UC Irvine Wednesday at the Bren Center. Junior Drew Staker led the short-handed Matadors with eight kills.
Playing without leading hitter Julius Hoefer who missed the match due to an injury, Northridge got eight kills from Staker (.500) while Brandon Lebrock, John Baker and Matt Stork each added seven. Lebrock hit a team-high .600 in 10 attacks and also posted five digs and one ace.
Senior Danny Rodrick made his first start of the season at setter and dished out 29 assists to go with a team-high six digs but couldn't prevent the Matadors from dropping their seventh straight road match.
In losing its fifth straight match to the Anteaters, Northridge was out-hit .458 to .244 and the Matadors were out-blocked 9.5 to 3.5.
An early season trend reared its ugly head again on Wednesday as the Matadors were forced to battle back from a big early deficit. UCI opened the frame with an 8-2 lead and never looked back, committing just one error while hitting .667 in the 25-15 win. Northridge hit just .095 in set one and dropped its 14th consecutive set on the road.
The Matadors regrouped in set two as an Anteater service error gave Northridge a 16-13 lead. But a service error by Lebrock followed by a Stork hitting error propelled UCI on a 6-0 run giving the Anteaters a 19-16 advantage. The Matadors would get within two six times down the stretch, the last at 24-22, but could not close the gap any further and went down two sets.
A co-block from Rodrick and Jared Moore gave Northridge its largest lead of the night at 17-14 in the final set. The Matadors maintained a three-point cushion at 19-16 following a Lebrock kill but UCI rallied for four straight points to wrestle back the lead 20-19. Back-to-back Anteater hitting errors put Northridge back on top 21-20 but a Moore service error, a UCI kill and a Staker error gave the Anteaters the lead for good 23-21. Following a Baker kill, a Scott Kevorken gave the Anteaters match point at 24-22. UCI committed a service error before Kevorken put away match point sending the Matadors to their seventh road loss.
Carson Clark led the Anteaters with a match-high 16 kills (.577) while Kevin Tillie added 13 (.417) as no UCI hitter hit less than .357 in the win.
Cal State Northridge wraps up its current three-match road trip on Friday as the Matadors travel to UC San Diego at 7 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -