SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Senior John Baker had a team-high 13 kills but it wasn't nearly enough to prevent eighth-ranked Cal State Northridge from falling in four sets (25-22, 25-21, 24-26, 25-15) at No. 11 UC Santa Barbara Wednesday night at Rob Gym.
On a night when the Matadors struggled offensively, Baker was the only CSUN hitter to register double figures in kills but hit just .167. Junior Brandon Lebrock added six kills (.120) and matched libero Charlie Condron with a team-high eight digs but no other hitter had more than four kills.
"We definitely struggled with our hitting tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "But that was a condition of us not passing or setting very well. You have to give credit to Santa Barbara, they served very well and it affected us for sure. We were out of system quite a bit and couldn't kill a ball."
The Matadors, who saw their three-match win streak come to an end, slip to 10-7 overall and 8-7 in the MPSF. UC Santa Barbara improves to 10-12 overall and 8-10 in conference play.
The Gauchos' serving put the Matadors in an early hole in three of the four sets. UCSB had a lead of 8-4 in set one and led 8-1 in both sets three and four.
After CSUN battled back to tie the score at 16-16 in set one, the Gauchos rolled off four straight points to all but seal the frame. With the Gauchos leading 24-20, a Baker kill and a UCSB hitting error saved two set points before Evan Licht's kill ended the set.
Set two was close throughout with neither team leading by more than two points until the Gauchos got kills from Dylan Davis and Miles Evans to take a 14-11 lead. Still trailing by three at 18-15, the Matadors used a Kyle Stevenson kill and a UCSB hitting error to pull within 18-17. But consecutive Licht quickly built the Gaucho lead back to three (20-17) and UCSB won going away 25-21.
After trailing by as many as seven points on three occasions early in set three, the Matadors turned to Chance Earnest and Sam Holt off the bench and Northridge began to chip away at the lead. A 13-7 Matador run, capped by a Baker kill, pulled the Matadors within one at 17-16. An ensuing ace from Drew Staker and a Gaucho hitting error gave CSUN its first lead of the night and the two teams then traded sideouts until 22-22.
A UCSB kill gave the Gauchos a 23-22 lead before Staker answered with a kill and then Staker and Travis Magorien teamed up to stuff a Gaucho attack giving the Matadors set point at 24-23. Holt's attack error evened the set for the final time before a Baker kill and an Earnest-Staker co-block gave CSUN the 26-24 win.
Looking to build on the momentum and possibly force a fifth set, the Matadors saw the Gauchos score eight of the first nine points in set four. Staker's kill pulled CSUN within seven at 11-4 but the Matadors would not threaten the rest of the way, trailing by double digits much of the set.
Licht led UC Santa Barbara with 15 kills (.103) while Evans added 14 (.278) and Dylan Davis chipped in 13 (.867).
Cal State Northridge returns to The Matadome Friday to open up a three-match homestand against UCLA at 7 p.m.
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