10th-Ranked Matadors Upend No. 5 Pepperdine in Five Thrilling Sets

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - John Baker and Brandon Lebrock proved to be quite a 1-2 punch for the second straight match as No. 10 Cal State Northridge upset fifth-ranked Pepperdine 16-25, 25-22, 25-20, 27-29, 15-13 in MPSF play Friday night at The Matadome.

In front of 962 fans, Baker set a career-high in kills for the second match in a row. After putting down 22 kills in CSUN's 3-1 win over No. 8 USC on Wednesday, the senior opposite from Racine, Wis., pounded a match-high 24 kills in a career-high 52 swings. Baker also continued his hot serving of late as he had both of the Matadors' aces and now has five in his last two matches.

Lebrock added 16 kills after posting 18 kills against the Trojans while hitting .206 in 34 attacks. The junior also had seven digs and put up six blocks including one solo. Senior Drew Staker also had an effective night at the net with a match-high 10 blocks, two of which were solo stuffs including a block on Pepperdine's Parker Kalmbach on match point.

The Matadors improved to 6-4 overall and evened their MPSF record at 4-4. The Waves slip to 5-4 overall and are also 5-4 in conference play.

"We played hard tonight and I'm very pleased that we beat a very good Pepperdine team," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "We had match point in game four and they battled back and forced a fifth set which says a lot about their team. I thought John Baker was awesome tonight but our setting was better as was our passing and serving."

Both teams came out firing in set one as the Waves hit .545 to CSUN's .316. Holding a slim 15-14 lead, Pepperdine got a kill from Kyle Gerrans followed by a pair of blocks on Lebrock and a Maurice Torres kill to open up a 19-14 advantage. A Lebrock kill got the Matadors within four at 20-16 but Northridge would get no closer the rest of the way.

The Matadors bolted out to a 14-7 lead in the second set following a Kyle Stevenson kill and a setting error by Matt West. But a 5-0 Pepperdine run cut the lead to 14-12 and the Waves eventually tied the score at 16-16 when Jared Moore's attack found the net. Another Torres kill kept the score even at 20-20 before back-to-back Staker kills gave CSUN a two-point cushion. The Waves closed to within one at 22-21 and 23-22 before kills from Lebrock and Staker evened the match.

The Matadors then out-hit Pepperdine .333-.091 to overcome a pair of four-point deficits (15-11, 16-12) in set three. With the score knotted at 17-17, Lebrock's kill fueled a four-point run as Northridge got the separation it needed to take a 25-20 victory.

That set the stage for a dramtic set four as the Waves forced a fifth and deciding set with the come-from-behind 29-27 win. Baker's kill set the Matadors up with match point at 24-22 when kills from Torres and Kalmbach forced extra points. Another Baker kill gave CSUN set point number three but Kalmbach answered and the score was tied at 25. After a co-block on Torres, Josh Taylor connected saving yet another match point and after Baker's final kill of the set put the Matadors on the verge at 27-26, the Waves rallied behind Torres for three straight to prolong the match.

After dropping the first two points of the fifth set, the Matadors won four straight and would never trail again. Pepperdine claimed the following two points to even the frame at 4-4 but that was as close as the Waves would get the rest of the way. CSUN held three-point leads at 7-4, 9-6, 10-7, 12-9 and 13-10 before a late Pepperdine rally evened the score when Baker's attack was blocked by Kalmbach and Taylor. Undeterred, the Matadors went to Lebrock for a kill on the ensuing point and then Staker came up big at the net on match point.  

"We just played hard and showed a lot of spirit tonight," added Campbell. "It was fun to coach the kind of volleyball we played tonight."

Pepperdine put four hitters in double figures as Torres had a team-high 21 kills (.262) while Kalmbach added 13 (.421) and Kyle Gerrans chipped in 12 (.133). Josh Taylor completed the quartet with 10 kills but hit just .107 in 28 attacks. Torres and Gerrans each had three aces and the Waves posted 10 aces as a team while hitting .220.

Cal State Northridge continues its five-match homestand next week as the Matadors host Stanford (Feb. 15) and Pacific (Feb. 16) in conference action.