Long Beach State Hands Matadors a 25-21, 25-22, 16-25, 25-21 Setback

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge nearly fought back from a two-set deficit but the visiting Long Beach Stare 49ers prevailed in four sets (25-21, 25-22, 16-25, 25-21) in a Big West match Friday night at The Matadome.

The Matadors (7-7, 1-1 Big West), who slipped to 0-3 on The Matadome floor this season, out-pointed the 49ers 70.0-64.0 but committed 31 hitting errors as they hit .146 on the night.

Sophomore Mahina Haina paced the Matadors with a match-high 16 kills (.196) to lead three CSUN hitters in double figures. Casey Higher matched her season-high with 15 kills (.314) and Natalie Allen added 11 kills (.045).

Monica McFarland's career-high 30 digs led a spirited defensive effort for the Matadors who posted a four-set season-high 85 digs as a team. Allen and setter Sydney Gedryn each had a double-double as Allen combined 18 digs with her 11 kills while Gedryn had 10 digs while dishing out 43 assists. Britney Graff narrowly missed her third double-double of the season after posting 11 digs to go with nine kills.

"Monica was all over the court for us tonight, 30 digs is unbelievable for a four-set match," said head coach Jeff Stork. "I thought we battled really hard, the girls left it out on the court. We weren't able to exploit their blocking strategies and our hitting errors were certainly a factor.

"I'm not happy with the result tonight but I'm happy with the way were fighting," said Stork. "This is a good volleyball team and we're competing at a high level but we've got to maintain our aggressiveness."

The visiting 49ers blew open a tight first set as Long Beach put together a 7-1 run with the score knotted at 10-10. The Matadors then took advantage of a trio of 49er hitting errors to rally back to a 20-20 tie. But Long Beach tallied three of the next four points to go up 23-21 before wrapping up the set on a Janisa Johnson kill.

Set two was similar from a Northridge standpoint as the two teams battled to a 10-10 tie. In a set that featured 10 ties, the Matadors and 49ers were knotted at 17-17, when CSUN rolled off three straight points, highlighted by back-to-back aces from Graff, to open up a 20-17 lead. The Matadors didn't help themselves with some miscues down the stretch as Long Beach overcame the CSUN lead and Haleigh Hampton's block gave the 49ers the lead for good at 23-22.

The Matadors put together an impressive third set with the help of freshman Mariah Counts. Counts came off the bench with the Matadors up 9-8 and propelled Northridge on an 11-0 run to all but seal the set for the Matadors. Counts had two aces during the run but also put the 49ers on their heels with several tough serves.  

Looking to force a fifth set, CSUN opened up an early 10-7 lead only to watch as Long Beach State quickly pulled even after scoring three unanswered points. The Matadors still led by three (17-14) before the 49ers again engineered a 3-0 run to knot the score again. Hampton and Bre Mackie then stuffed Haina's attack giving he 49ers an 18-17 lead they would never relinquish. The Matadors clawed within three (23-20) in the latter stages but could not complete the comeback falling 25-21.

Johnson led Long Beach (8-5, 2-1 Big West) with 13 kills (.173) and 12 digs while Delainey Aigner-Swesey added 11 kills (.077).

Cal State Northridge wraps up its quick two-match homestand Saturday against Cal State Fullerton. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.