March 10, 2012

Matadors Drop Non-Conference Match in Four Sets to Harvard

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - After rolling over Ball State and No. 15 Loyola earlier in the week, 12th-ranked Cal State Northridge ran into a buzz saw in Harvard as the Crimson handed the Matadors a 25-17, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22 non-conference loss Saturday night in The Matadome.

The loss was just the second non-conference home loss for Northridge (8-11) since the 2000 season. The Matadors are still an impressive 74-24 (.755) in home and away non-conference matches over the same span.

On Saturday, the visiting Crimson turned the tables on the recently hot-hitting Matadors as Harvard hit a blistering .463 in winning the first two sets. Meanwhile, Matt Stork and John Baker, Northridge's hottest hitters over the last week, each hit negative in a combined 25 swings. Stork had three kills (-.188) and Baker also had three kills (-.111) before being replaced in the Matador lineup.

The Matadors struggled hitting .091 in set one and .259 in set two before rebounding to hit .419 in taking set three 25-22. But Northridge could not sustain the momentum and dropped to a .111 hitting clip in the fourth and final set. 

Brandon Lebrock (.333) and Julius Hoefer (.292) wound up leading Northridge in kills with 12 apiece while Drew Staker (.385) and Jared Moore (.294) each chipped in seven kills.

The Crimson had little trouble solving the Matador block committing just three errors over the first two sets and 12 for the entire match. Harvard wound up hitting .364 in the match while the Matadors wound up hitting .220.

A Stork kill kept Northridge within one at 8-7 in the opening set before the Crimson took advantage of a pair of Matador hitting errors and some solid serving and defense to open up their largest lead at 14-7. Harvard led from that point on and carried the momentum into set two where the Crimson led from start to finish.

Looking to extend the match, Matador head coach Jeff Campbell turned to Hoefer, along with Travis Magorien and Kyle Stevenson, and Northridge responded with the 25-22 victory. After a Hoefer's serve found the net evening the score at 14, the Matadors scored three straight points on a Moore kill, a Magorien block and a Lebrock ace to take their largest lead of the match (17-14). Northridge maintained at least a three-point lead until Moore's attack was stuffed at the net pulling Harvard within 23-21 but the Matadors took two of the final three points to seal the set 25-22.

Needing to win the fourth set, Northridge held a slim 5-4 lead following a Stevenson kill before the Crimson rolled off three straight points to take the lead for good at 7-5. An ensuing kill by Hoefer cut the lead to one (7-6) but the Matadors would get no closer the remainder of the set as Harvard won going away 25-22.

Matt Jones led the Crimson with a match-high 16 kills (.353) while DJ White (.481) and Nick Madden (.294) each added 14 kills for Harvard (12-2) in the win.

Cal State Northridge returns to MPSF play next week as the Matadors host UC Irvine (Mar. 14) and UC San Diego (Mar. 16). Both matches begin at 7 p.m. in The Matadome. 

- GO MATADORS -