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After Firing First Volley, Matadors Fall : College volleyball: After Northridge jumps ahead, third-ranked Pepperdine rallies for 13-15, 15-3, 16-14, 15-8 victory, tightening its hold on second place.


After the Cal State Northridge volleyball team won the first game against Pepperdine, Matador setter Matt Unger thrust his fist into the air, turned to Northridge's fans and shouted, "That's one!"

That one was all the Matadors would get, as they fell to the third-ranked Waves, 13-15, 15-3, 16-14, 15-8, Thursday night in Malibu.

The victory tightened Pepperdine's hold on second place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Mountain Divsion. The Waves are 14-3, 11-3 in the conference.

Northridge (15-6, 9-4) trailed in the pivotal third game, 12-6, and was playing listlessly. Suddenly, the Matadors scored eight of the next nine points and led, 14-13, with Unger serving for a two games to one lead.

Matador Jamal Thompson was slapped with a delay of game warning for having trouble removing his warm-up jacket upon entering the match and he hit the ball long on his first two serves, but he came alive late in the game, teaming with Axel Hager on two key blocks for points and nailing the kill that gave Northridge the 14-13 edge.

But Pepperdine's Tom Sorensen responded with one of his match-high 25 kills to give the Waves a sideout and Greg Shankle recorded kills for the last three points, taking the fight out of the Matadors.

"Pepperdine played well, but we felt like we gave them the third game," CSUN Coach John Price said.

Northridge committed seven service errors in the game, including three by Thompson.

"Our serving was absolutely, totally disgusting," Price said.

Price also blamed Northridge's poor blocking for the defeat. "They were a lot better than we were," he said. 'We weren't even close. It baffles me that we couldn't block, but the players won't trust the coaches. They know how to do it, but instead they just go on instincts.'

Price wasn't too happy with his players the entire match, yanking Unger midway through the second game for employing plays Price had specifically said not to use. Unger and Price had an animated discussion on the sideline for several minutes.

But for all their troubles, things started well for the Matadors. Trailing, 8-4, in the first game, the Matadors scored eight consecutive points to take a 12-10 lead. Pepperdine, which was playing relatively mistake-free volleyball, gave up the final four points on three hitting errors and a net violation.

The end of the opening game belonged to Matador middle blocker Coley Kyman. The 6-foot-6 senior scored Northridge's final three points on two blocks and a kill.

By mutual agreement, it seemed, game two was played as quickly as possible. Pepperdine raced to a 12-1 lead, including eight consecutive points on Sorensen's serve, and Northridge made an abundance of errors for a quick 15-3 defeat. After the emotional third game, Pepperdine wrapped up the match with a routine victory in the final game.

Axel Hager led CSUN with 21 kills.

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