LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The 13th-ranked Cal State Northridge Matadors capped a difficult two-match road trip Friday night at second-ranked UCLA and CSUN battled the Bruins before falling in straight sets at Pauley Pavilion.
The Matadors (3-8, 3-7 MPSF) lost despite a spirited rally in the third set that nearly forced the match to four sets.
"If we play like we did in set three we can compete with anyone," said head coach Jeff Campbell. "Our passing broke down in the first two sets but it was mostly inexperienced player mistakes. Any time you lose it's disappointing but we're certainly encouraged going forward."
Redshirt freshman Damani Lenore led CSUN with 12 kills, hitting .105 on 38 attacks and also had a career-high seven digs to go with a pair of aces. Greg Faulkner also reached double figures in kills for the second time in his last three matches as the junior middle put down 10 kills on 17 swings to hit .412. Faulkner also matched setter Travis Magorien with a team-high four blocks. Andrew Freiha added seven kills (.103) and a season-high eight digs while also serving an ace.
In addition to his four blocks, Magorien handed out 31 assists to go with four digs. The Matadors hit .139 (35-20-108) as a team for the match, but according to Campbell took some solid swings. Kyle Stevenson posted a team-high 11 digs in the loss.
CSUN hit .027 in dropping the opening set 25-15 but upped that to .182 but still fell behind by two sets following the 25-18 setback.
In the final set, the Matadors were out-hit by UCLA .255 to .211 but had three chances at the set. CSUN opened up early three point leads at 8-5 and 9-6 before the Bruins rolled off an 8-2 run to take a 14-11 lead. The Matadors kept it close the rest of the way as a Lenore kill and a UCLA hitting error knotted the score at 18-18.
The Bruins maintained their lead and soon built it to 23-20 on a Robart Page kill. But a pair of blocks from Faulkner, one with the help of Magorien, along with another Bruin hitting error capped a three-point Matador run which tied the score at 23-23. A UCLA kill followed by a Bruin service error again knotted the score at 24-24 and set the stage for a spirited set of extra points.
After saving match points at 25-24, 26-25, 27-26 and 28-27, a kill from Lenore and another co-block from Faulkner and Magorien gave CSUN its first set point at 29-28. The Bruins saved one set point and another at 30-29 before the Matadors had their third and final swing at 31-30 when Stevenson's attack went out.
An ensuing service error put CSUN in front 32-31 before UCLA rallied for the final three points in a 34-32 victory.
Page put down a match-high 21 kills for UCLA which improved to 11-3 (8-2 MPSF).
Cal State Northridge returns home for a season-long, four-match homestand beginning Wednesday, Feb. 19 as the Matadors host UC San Diego at 7 p.m.
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