MVB: Cal State Northridge upsets UCSB in four games

Eighth-ranked UC Santa Barbara’s three-match road trip got off to a less than desirable start on Wednesday night, as the Gauchos were upset by Cal State Northridge in four games (25-16, 23-25, 25-17, 25-23) at the Matadome.

The Matadors (5-5, 3-3 MPSF) received 38 combined kills from the outside hitting duo of Sam Holt and Damani Lenore, with the former leading all players with his 22 kills. The twosome both had a pair of aces as well to steer a serving effort that recorded six aces on the night. CSUN hit .313 as a team compared to UCSB’s .157.

For UCSB (6-5, 2-5), senior outside hitter Weston Nielsen led the way in both kills (12) and digs (six). Senior opposite Kevin Donohue added 11 kills, while both starting middles, senior Jake Staahl and junior Ryan Hardy, finished with five kills and four block assists.

Redshirt freshman Bobby Curtis made the most of an expanded opportunity at the service line, recording a team and personal career-high two aces in eight attempts.

The two teams stayed close to start the first game, with no team leading by more than two any point through the first half. A Jonah Seif-Staahl double block would narrow UCSB’s deficit to one at 12-13, but CSUN responded to that roof with a 4-0 run behind the serving of Lenore, who recorded the first of his two aces during the stretch and pushed the score to 12-17 in favor of the Matadors. Ahead 22-16, CSUN then went on to win the final three points to claim the first set.

The Gauchos trailed for the majority of the second set as well, with the Matadors opening their biggest lead yet on a 3-0 run that brought the score to 14-11. That margin held steady and things began to look dire for UCSB with Northridge leading 23-20. At that point, an errant Holt attack sent Curtis the service line, and the outside hitter went on to key the Gauchos to a game-stealing, 5-0 run.

Holt had a stretch to forget at the end of the second set, as he was charged with receiving errors on two consecutive service aces from Curtis before hitting wide on the next point, then getting blocked by Staahl and Nielsen on the final point.

Things turned sour quickly for UCSB in the third, as an 8-0 run early in the set for CSUN that burned both Gaucho timeouts put the Matadors up 10-2. From there, CSUN went into coast control and claimed the third frame easily.

Down by four late in the final game, the Gauchos valiantly battled back to make to ultimately make it close. Decreasing the deficit to two at 21-23, UCSB then went on to fight off a pair of match points on a Donohue kill and Seif-Staahl block, but Holt put the tilt away with a kill on the next play.

The Gauchos will look to get back into the win column on Friday night as they take on the Long Beach State 49ers at 7:00 p.m. at the Walter Pyramid.