The Cal State Northridge volleyball team cramped early in its Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. match against Pepperdine on Tuesday night, but the problem had nothing to do with muscles.
"We call them head cramps," CSUN Coach John Price said. "Their brains just cramp sometimes and you don't know what they're thinking."
The Matadors became afflicted with the condition late in the first game. By the time they began to show signs of recovery, the match was over as Pepperdine beat Northridge, 15-13, 15-6, 15-12, at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu.
Pepperdine (3-1, 2-0 in conference play), ranked fourth in the nation, has never lost to Northridge. The Waves have beaten the Matadors 14 times.
But it was 11th-ranked Northridge that dominated the first part of the match as the Matadors jumped out to a 12-8 lead in the first game behind the play of middle blocker Jeff Campbell and outside hitter Robert Samuelson.
However, with Doug Rigg serving, Pepperdine came back to win the game on seven consecutive points. Northridge played a generous role in the rally, surrendering the last four points with unforced errors.
"All Pepperdine had to do was serve the ball," said Price. "They didn't have to block a ball. They didn't have to dig a ball and they didn't have to hit a ball. We took care of it."
Northridge (3-7, 0-1) spent the rest of the match setting the ball to the outside where the Matador hitters often met an effective Pepperdine triple block.
"Our passing seemed to get off a little bit and when it does we tend to go outside," said Samuelson, who had 11 kills. "The triple block forced us into hitting errors. When you only have one set and they put up a big block like that, it's kind of tough to hit around."
Middle blocker Robert Keller led the Waves with a match-high 13 blocks. Jeff Campbell had 13 kills and 7 blocks to lead the Matadors.
Pepperdine's Mark Root, a freshmen middle blocker from Chatsworth High, had 10 kills in 12 attempts (.833) and helped shut Northridge down at the net with 4 blocks.
"We weren't really prepared at the beginning of the match," Root said. "But we came together and put them away in the second game and played tough when we had to at the end of the match."
The Matadors tied the score, 11-11, in the third game before Pepperdine finished the match with four consecutive points, two on kills by hitter George Thompson, one on one of the Matadors many net violations and match point on Randy Bergstedt's kill.
"I can't explain it," Price said. "We always seem to break down once during every game. Against Pepperdine you're not going to survive it."