The Cal State Northridge men's volleyball team may have played its best match of the season Wednesday night at the Northridge gym. But sometimes a great performance is not good enough.
The Matadors' 15-7, 6-15, 12-15, 15-10, 10-15 loss to fifth-ranked UCLA in a Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. match would have to fall into that category.
Throughout the first four games, Northridge (6-10, 2-5 in conference play) looked like it had a chance to beat the defending national champion Bruins (17-2, 4-2) for the first time.
The Matadors, however, came out cold in the fifth game and allowed UCLA to spurt to a 9-1 lead. Northridge rallied to 10-12, but then committed two errors and lost its 14th consecutive match to UCLA on a Mike Whitcomb kill, 15-10.
"It happened so quick," Northridge Coach John Price said. "Our strength has been our ability to sideout. When you allow UCLA a 9-1 lead you have to play perfect."
UCLA Coach Al Scates said the close match was as much a reflection of the Matadors' fine play as his team's poor performance. The Bruins were playing without injured middle blocker Don Dendinger, who has led the Bruins in kills this season.
"We didn't have a lot of offensive punch tonight," Scates said. "But they can be very tough in their gym. They've gotten much better but you don't build a dynasty overnight."
Northridge was led by junior middle blocker Jeff Campbell, who had 25 kills and 10 blocks.
CSUN trailed in the third game, 5-2, when middle blocker Jeff McLean suffered a sprained ankle. Raphael Tulino, a freshman from Canoga Park, replaced McLean, blocking well and recording four kills.
CSUN took its first lead of the game, 9-7, after scoring four consecutive points on two Bruin errors, an Andrew Greskovics kill and a Tulino-Tom Ribarich block. The Bruins tied the score, 9-9, 10-10 and 12-12, before scoring on three Matador errors to win, 15-12.
The Bruins established an early lead in the fourth game before the Matadors took six consecutive points and the lead, 10-7. But a Northridge passing breakdown kept the Matadors from getting the ball to Campbell and allowed the Bruins to tie the score, 10-10.
But that was to be UCLA's last point of the game. Tulino, 6-5, blocked for a point and added the game-winning kill after a Campbell ace.