Matadors Put Up a Fight But Fall to Top-Ranked UC Irvine

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge took its second crack at a top-ranked team on its home floor and despite playing well, No. 1 UC Irvine swept the 13th-ranked Matadors, 27-25, 25-14, 25-23 in an MPSF match Wednesday at The Matadome.

The Matadors (8-12, 4-9 MPSF) had three swings at the opening set and also had chances in the third set but the top-ranked Anteaters prevailed on each occasion.

"We played pretty well and had chances to win tonight," said head coach Jeff Campbell. "Despite the 3-0 loss, I'm really pleased with the way we played. It's nice to see that the things that we're working on in practice are showing up in games."

Sophomore Brandon Lebrock continued his solid hitting of late as he put down a team-high 12 kills while hitting .360 in 25 swings. Freshman Julius Hoefer came off the bench to add nine kills (.353) and had both of Northridge's aces. Setter Danny Rodrick handed out 34 assists to go with a team-high seven digs as the Matadors hit .287 as a team.

The Anteaters simply proved too strong offensively, hitting .500 as a team. UCI also out-blocked Northridge 7.5-6.0 and had four aces to two for the Matadors.

UC Irvine took command of set one early on leading by as many as four (9-5) before Northridge battled back to knot the set at 13-13 following a Rodrick-Jared Moore block and a Kyle Stevenson kill. The two teams then traded sideouts until Stevenson's attack went long giving the Anteaters a 22-21 lead. But a John Baker kill pulled the Matadors even and consecutive kills from Lebrock put Northridge on the verge of the opening set win.

UCI's Kevin Tillie, who had 11 kills in the match, saved a pair of set points with kills before Baker answered again giving Northridge its third set point. But a Carson Clark put-away on the ensuing point saved another set point and sent the Anteaters on a set-clinching 3-0 run capped by kills from Jeremy Dejno and Dan McDonnell.

UC Irvine dominated the second set hitting .636 without an error to just .231 for the Matadors. The Anteaters scored the first three points of the frame and eventually opened up an eight-point cushion at 15-7 and Northridge would not threaten the remainder of the set.

After going down 16-11 in the final set, the Matadors battled back to within 16-14 on the strength of Hoefer's serving. The second of the freshman's aces got Northridge as close as they had been in the set before kills from Hoefer and Drew Staker pulled the Matadors even at 23-23 late in the set. But Hoefer's ensuing serve sailed long and Dejno put away a ball on match point sending UCI to its sixth straight win over Northridge.

Clark led the Anteaters with a match-high 17 kills (.667) while Dejno (.625) and Tillie (.360) each added 11 kills in the win.

Cal State Northridge continues its homestand Friday as the Matadors host No. 15 UC San Diego in The Matadome at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast live at GoMatadors.com with Mark Schuermann at the call.

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