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Northridge Upsets San Diego State in Three Fast Games

Times Staff Writer

When the San Diego State volleyball team arrived at Northridge Friday night, the Aztecs probably figured they would be starring in another California Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. match at the CSUN gym.

But it was the Cal State Northridge team that stole the show, defeating the Aztecs, 15-13, 15-9, 15-8.

“We expected it to be a dogfight,” Aztec Coach Mark Warner said. “I told the guys in the locker room, ‘If we jump out quickly and put them away, we’ll be OK.’ But we let them back in the game.”

Northridge (5-12 in CIVA, 17-18 overall), which was 0-8 in February, has improved of late. Friday’s win moved the Matadors into a virtual tie for eighth place in CIVA with San Diego State (6-13 in CIVA).

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“We have a much better team than we indicated in February,” Northridge Coach John Price said. “We’ve been playing great this last month. Tonight was just a continuation. Earlier, we’d play well for part of a match. Tonight we were hungrier.”

CSUN setter Mark Stein said it was time to perform.

“It’s the end of the season,” Stein said. “We knew we had to do it now.”

After falling behind, 7-0, in the first game, the Matadors stormed back, reeling off a 12-2 run to set up a win. CSUN made six serving errors, but the serves that crossed the net were effective, keeping the Aztec passers off balance and breaking up the flow of the offense.

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While the Aztec offense faltered, the CSUN hitters blasted by, through, and over the opposing blockers. Senior Chuck English and John Buffington each had 11 kills. Stein and CSUN captain Mike Bird worked the offense effectively, keeping the Aztecs off guard.

CSUN produced a strong defensive effort as well.

The Matadors were clearly more effective in the back court, even when their lead seemed insurmountable. The Matadors refused to give up. They chased down balls that had been deflected off the court, hustling to the far wall and diving over benches.

“We missed a lot of serves tonight, but we were serving tougher,” Price said. “We kept their passes off the net.”

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The Matadors dominated the second game and led, 14-4, before the Aztecs scored five straight points. CSUN’s Ed DeGrasse, who had 13 kills, scored off a block by Aztec Rob Croteau for the final point of the game.

San Diego played well in the third game, but CSUN responded by outhitting, out-hustling, and out-serving the Aztecs.

“They out-hustled us,” Warner said. “It was up to us to take it away from them, and we just didn’t do that. They scrapped for balls and put up a nice block. They’re playing well. I’m glad they’re finishing strong.”

“It’s the most wins we’ve ever had in the league,” Bird said. “We’re a little more relaxed. When we were losing, we’d get real up-tight. Our teamwork is better, and we’re playing better as a unit.”

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But, for the Matadors, the test is not over yet.

CSUN faces Long Beach State tonight in the Long Beach gym. Price is optimistic that the Matadors can contain the seventh-place team and continue their winning streak.

“I believe we’ve improved a lot more than they have,” Price said. “We could finish as high as sixth or seventh. When we started to play defense, we really turned our season around.”


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