Matadors Fall to Top-Ranked USC in Regular Season Finale

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge honored seniors Danny Rodrick and Matt Stork prior to Saturday's match against top-ranked USC but it failed to ignite the 11th-ranked Matadors as the Trojans won in a sweep 25-19, 28-26, 25-17 at The Matadome.

The same two teams will meet again next Saturday, Apr. 21 as the eighth-seeded Matadors (12-17, 8-14 MPSF) will travel to the Galen Center to take on the top-seeded Trojans (22-4, 18-4). USC, which swept Northridge in both matches this season, earned the right to host the MPSF Tournament by finishing in first place.

In the regular season finale on Saturday, John Baker led the Matadors with 11 kills but hit just .150 in 20 swings while Brandon Lebrock added 10 kills (.200) in 25 attacks. After clinching a tournament berth with a 3-1 win over Pepperdine on Thursday, Northridge looked for a lift against the Trojans and honored departing seniors Rodrick and Stork in prematch festivities.

Stork, who has been hampered by an injury over the last month, started but was not his usual self and took just two swings in his one and only set. Rodrick dished out 35 assists while leading the Matadors to a .247 hitting clip in his final home appearance.

"Clearly it was an uninspired performance by us tonight," said Northridge head coach Jeff Campbell. "You have to give USC credit they are a very good team but sometimes you just don't have it and we didn't have it tonight. I think we'll be ready to go on Saturday, we'll be in a better postion both mentally and physically." 

Tony Ciarelli was a one-man wrecking crew for USC on Saturday as he pounded a match-high 19 kills while hitting .818 in 22 attacks. The Trojans also got eight kills from Maddison McKibbin (.312) and six kills and six blocks from Robert Feathers.

USC won the first and third sets handily but it was set two that the Matadors put up a fight. Northridge led by as many as three points on a pair of occasions, the last at 12-9 before the Trojans claimed six of the next seven points to retake the lead 15-13. A pair of USC miscues evened the score at 15 and the teams then battled through seven more ties until 23-23. Lebrock's ensuing serve found the net but the Matadors were able to save one set point at 24-23 and also held off the Trojans at 25-24 and 26-25 but back-to-back kills from Feathers and Ciarelli proved to be the difference in the 28-26 win.