Matadors Top UC Irvine to Extend Record-Setting Big West Start

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge extended its Big West opening win streak to five straight as Cieana Stinson paced the Matadors with a match-high 13 kills in a 19-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-16 win over UC Irvine Saturday at The Matadome.

With five wins to open the conference season, CSUN (15-3, 5-0 Big West) is off to its best start since 1996 when the Matadors started 5-0 on their way to a perfect 16-0 Big Sky Conference mark. 5-0 is the Matadors' best to start a Big West season since joining the conference in 2001.

Stinson, who struggled offensively in CSUN's win over Long Beach State on Thursday, got back on track against the Anteaters coming up with 13 kills while hitting .400 on 25 attacks. Mahina Haina and Natalie Allen each added 11 kills with Allen adding 12 digs for her eighth double-double this season. Casey Hinger chipped in eight kills and a match-high six blocks while Sydney Gedryn had 30 assists, 11 digs, six kills and one of the Matadors' two aces in the win.

"Irvine did a very good job with their serving early on but once we settled down emotionally and got back to our training and scouting report we started to control them more and more as the match wore on," said CSUN head coach Jeff Stork. "It wasn't a great offensive match for us but it was similar to our last three matches in that we scored a ton of points which set us apart."

The Matadors got off to slow starts in both the first and third sets trailing 7-2 in set one and 9-2 in set three. In the first, UC Irvine ou-hit CSUN .379-.182 as the Matadors would only get as close as two in trying to overcome the early deficit. Back-to-back Haina kills cut the Anteater lead from 11-7 to 11-9 but UCI answered with two straight points to boost the lead back to four and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

The Matadors turned the tables in set two, this time hitting a match-high .333 to UCI's .143. With CSUN leading 17-15, Haina's attack was stuffed and the Anteaters were within one at 17-16. But a Sam Kaul kill on the ensuing point sent the Matadors on a set-clinching 8-0 run evening the match at one set apiece.

After an Arielle Manz kill put UCI in front 9-2 early in set three, the Matadors began to chip away at the lead as Allen's kill kept CSUN within three at 12-9. Trailing 14-10, CSUN engineered a 5-1 run to tie the score for the first time at 15-15. Hinger's block in the next point gave the Matadors a 16-15 lead and Northridge would not trail again. Clinging to a 20-19 lead, CSUN got kills from Haina and Kaul to give the Matadors the margin they need to pull away late and take the 25-22 win.

CSUN limited UCI to a -.026 hitting clip in the final frame as the Matadors used a 5-0 run to open up an 11-6 lead. After the Anteaters closed to 11-8, CSUN methodically built its lead to 18-10 and the Matadors won going away 25-16.

Aly Squires and Marisa Bubica each had 10 kills to lead UC Irvine (9-10, 0-5 Big West) which hit .162 for the match to .248 for the Matadors. 

Cal State Northridge heads back on the road next week  as it seeks to extend its undefeated conference start. The Matadors visit UC Santa Barbara next Friday (Oct. 19) and Cal Poly on Saturday (Oct. 20).

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