CSUN's Upset Bid Comes Up Just Short in Five-Set Loss to Top-Ranked Pepperdine

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Despite a career night from redshirt freshman Damani Lenore, Cal State Northridge came up short in its upset bid as top-ranked Pepperdine held off the Matadors in five sets (25-15, 27-29, 25-27, 25-19, 15-12) in an MPSF match Wednesday at The Matadome.

The Matadors (1-3, 1-2 MPSF) were bidding for their first win over team ranked atop the AVCA Top-15 poll since 2010 but came up just short in a tight fifth set. Lenore, who wound up with a match-high 28 kills for CSUN, committed back-to-back hitting errors with the score tied at 11-11 in the final frame. Greg Faulkner's kill cut the lead to 13-12 but a Matador service error followed by a Pepperdine kill of a CSUN overpass kept the Waves unbeaten at 4-0 (4-0 MPSF).

Lenore, who came off the bench at the tail end of set one, had 28 kills while hitting .295 on a match-high 61 swings. His kill total is the most by a Matador hitter since Jacek Ratajczak had 30 against Hawai'i on Mar. 5, 2010. The redshirt freshman from Yorba Linda also had a pair of aces, two blocks and one dig.

Sam Holt added nine kills (.071) while Faulkner chipped in five (.300) as CSUN nearly pulled the upset despite hitting .205 (60-30-146) as a team. Travis Magorien posted 47 assists, six digs, four kills and four blocks while Bradley Sakaida had a career-high nine digs playing both libero and outside hitter.

The Matadors overcame a distastrous opening set that saw them hit .000 while being outblocked 8.5-0.0. Head coach Jeff Campbell then subbed in Lenore and shifted Sakaida from libero to outside hitter and the CSUN offense began to click. Lenore had eight kills in set two alone as the Matadors hit a team-high .346 in the 29-27 win.

The third set also went extra points with CSUN saving one set point at 25-24 when a Lenore kill was followed up by a Magorien-Vaughn Wellenreiter co-block giving the Matadors their second swing at the set. Wellenreiter then took advantage of a Pepperdine overpass and his attack found the floor and CSUN had a two sets to one lead.

Showing the grit of a number one team, the Waves quickly built an 11-7 lead in set four and never looked back. Still leading by four (16-12), Pepperdine extended its lead to as many as six (23-17) following a Josh Taylor kill. After CSUN closed to within 24-19 late, a Nikola Antonijevic kill sent the match to a decisive fifth set. 

Taylor led the Waves with 19 kills (.200) while Parker Kalmbach added 19 (.273) and Kyle Gerrans chipped in 15 (.367).

Cal State Northridge concludes its brief two-match homestand Friday night at 7 p.m., as the Matadors host No. 4 USC.