Matadors Come Up Just Short in Home Finale, Fall to UCSB in Five Sets

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Cal State Northridge nearly overcame a two sets to one deficit but visiting UC Santa Barbara held on to hand the 21st-ranked Matadors their first home loss and just their second conference loss of the season Saturday night at The Matadome.

CSUN (22-5, 12-2 Big West) had won all eight matches this season on The Matadome floor and carried a season-high, seven-match win streak into Saturday's home finale but the visiting Gauchos (15-9, 10-2 Big West) pulled off the upset sending the Matadors' Senior Night crowd home disappointed.

"For me it was a tale of siding-out," said CSUN Head Coach Jeff Stork. "We struggled siding-out in sets 1 and 3 and a little bit early in set five. We did better in the other two sets and that's what we need to do when we're in these tough battles, to sideout more."

Casey Hinger, Mahina Haina and Natalie Allen all reached double figures in kills for the Matadors with Hinger putting down a team-high 18. Hinger, who also had a career-high 17 digs, hit .395 on 38 swings to go with four blocks and one ace. Haina added 15 kills (.227) and four digs while Allen posted her team-leading 12th double-double by adding 14 kills (.312) and 12 digs.

Sam Kaul added nine kills (.300) and five blocks and Cieana Stinson chipped in eight kills but struggled hitting just .037. Matador setter Sydney Gedryn, along with Haina and Britney Graff, made her final Matadome appearance and had a solid match with 54 assists, 12 digs, six kills and seven block assists.

As a team, the Matadors had 70 kills while hitting .253. The Gauchos were just a bit better hitting .282 as a team with 71 kills.

"We're just didn't get the number of kills that we needed to," added Stork. "Our outsides were slowed down a bit tonight, typically the sideout comes from kills and the bottom line is we need to get more kills."

The Matadors struggled out of the gate in set one as UCSB out-hit CSUN .400 to .222 on its way to a convincing 25-18 win. The Gauchos led by as many as seven (20-13) in the opening frame before pulling away late as seven was the final margin.

Set two went back-and-forth the entire way before CSUN took a two-point lead (19-17) following a Kaul kill. Still leading by two (20-18), the Matadors rolled off four of the next seven points to set themselves up with set point at 24-21. But four straight Gaucho points quickly erased the CSUN lead and gave UCSB set point at 25-24. But Kaul answered with a kill and an ensuing Gaucho miscue gave the Matadors another set point at 26-25. The Gauchos would save yet another set point at 27-26 before a kill from Allen and a Ali Spindt hitting error evened the match after the thrilling 29-27 CSUN win.

With momentum temporarily back on their side, the Matadors dropped four of the first five points of the third set and would never lead. After nearly overcoming deficits of 10-7 and 17-13, CSUN clawed to within 17-15 on a Hinger ace and an Allen kill. But back-to-back Gaucho kills and a UCSB block quickly boosted the lead back to five at 20-15 and CSUN would not threaten the rest of the way.

Undeterred, the Matadors quickly built an 8-4 in a must-win set four. CSUN increased its lead to as many as six at 20-14 when Hinger and Gedryn teamed up to stuff a Spindt attack. Still leading by six (22-16), the Matadors watched as the Gauchos rolled off three straight to close to within three. But a a Hinger kill followed by a pair of Allen kills  sent the match to a fifth set.

The Gauchos took command of the fifth set after claiming six of the first nine points. After a Stinson kill closed the gap to 7-5, a UCSB kill kept the Gauchos in front by three heading into the changeover. With Katey Thompson at the service line, the lead became insurmountable for the Matadors as three straight points, two coming on Thompson aces, put the Gauchos in front for good 11-5. Trailing 14-8, the Matadors saved four match points but Thompson's kill ended the run and sent UCSB home with the win.

Spindt matched Hinger with 18 kills (.184) while Thompson added 15 kills (.216) and Ali Barbeau chipped in 12 (.294).

Cal State Northridge closes the regular season with a pair of road matches, the first coming at No. 12 Hawai'i next Saturday, Nov. 23. First serve is scheduled for 10 p.m. PST.