NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara dropped its second consecutive decision on Saturday night, falling to the CSUN Matadors by a score of 3-1 (18-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-14) at the Matadome.
With the loss, UCSB fell to 13-14 with a 6-6 Big West mark. CSUN, winners of three straight, improved to 18-8, 9-5. The Gauchos – who entered the week in second in the Big West – will occupy the bottom half of the crowded standings next week, while the Matadors – who entered the week in third place – leapfrogged the Gauchos for second place in the conference.
The Gauchos started off well enough, winning the first game with relative ease. However, a midgame run in the second set by the Matadors permanently shifted the momentum in their favor. CSUN's play noticeably improved as the match went along, while the same could not be said for UCSB.
"After not playing well against Hawai'I, we came out with intensity and played great in the first game," said UCSB head coach Kathy Gregory after the match. "Unfortunately, our serving let us down, and they played better once they got into an offensive rhythm."
The Gauchos were led by outside hitter Leah Sully, who finished the night with 22 kills and 15 digs for her ninth double-double in her last 10 matches. Freshman libero Taylor Formico had a team-high 26 digs, and is now just 25 digs away from setting the single-season dig record for both UCSB and the Big West Conference. Three other Gauchos reached double digits in digs, including Jaylen Villanueva, Katey Thompson, and Kara Sherrard, each whom had 10.
"Leah Sully played really hard and had a good offensive night," said an appreciative Gregory. "She was out bright spot tonight."
Cal State Northridge received excellent performances from Mahina Haina and Cieana Stinson, who finished with twin lines of 13 kills on 35 swings. Four Matadors had double-digit kills, highlighted by libero Cindy Ortiz's 28. Setter Sydney Gedryn dished out 40 assists and put up a match-high six blocks.
UCSB's strong defense limited CSUN's attack to an even .000 hitting percentage in the first game. Most noticeably, the Matadors were only able to convert 37% of their sideout points. Sully and Formico led the way, recording seven and nine digs, respectively. Sully also had six kills in the frame and was at the service line for a 4-0 run with the score tied 12-12 that got the Gauchos over the hump.
The Matadors quickly rebounded in the second game, hitting .170 for the frame and picking up four team blocks after having recorded just one in the first set. With the score tied 10-10, an 11-5 run for CSUN proved to be the turning point in the set, and ultimately the match.
Despite the halftime break, the home squad carried over momentum into the third game, where they hit a sky-high .429 and recorded another five blocks. In the decisive fourth game, CSUN jumped out to a 9-1 lead that proved to be too steep for the Gauchos to overcome.
Next week, the Gauchos will return to the Thunderdome to host Pacific and UC Davis in a pair of pivotal Big West matches. For tickets to those matches, as well as all remaining home matches this season, click here.