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Healthy Lynch Gives Northridge a Sound Offense : College volleyball: Senior middle blocker records 36 kills in sparking Matadors to fourth consecutive victory.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Ken Lynch’s hand meets a volleyball squarely, the sound it produces is unique.

It is not a slap, nor a punch.

“It’s thunder,” Cal State Northridge volleyball teammate Matt Unger said. “He was thundering the ball tonight. When he’s healthy, he puts a lot of heat on the ball.

“When he’s healthy, we’re a different team.”

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Cal State Northridge reiterated that point against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night, beating the Gauchos 15-5, 15-12, 12-15, 15-4 in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match in front of 1,007 fans in the Northridge gym.

The fourth-ranked Matadors (11-3, 6-2 in league play) have won four in a row, a streak that coincides with having Lynch, their senior middle blocker, in good health and good rhythm.

Lynch missed five matches and important practice time with a strained back. His pain now subsided, Lynch has become a royal pain for Northridge opponents.

Against the Gauchos, he had a match-high 36 kills, eight short of his personal-high, set last season against Hawaii.

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Lynch, who also hit at a match-high 46.9%, said his performance was not as indicative of good health as it was good timing.

“In volleyball, it’s all a matter of timing with your setter,” he said. “I feel like I’m connecting right now. When I’m so tuned in and confident, nothing can stop me.”

Certainly sixth-ranked Santa Barbara (9-8, 5-4) could not. The threat of Lynch attacking from the outside left the middle of the Gauchos’ vulnerable to quick hits by Craig Hewitt and Coley Kyman as Northridge scored an easy victory in the first game.

Then, after Santa Barbara adjusted to that strategy, Unger, the quarterback of the Matador offense, switched over to setting Lynch, Axel Hager and Peter Piexoto.

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The Gauchos turned stubborn midway through the match, at first rallying from a 13-4 deficit to make the second game close, then running away with the third game before a Northridge rally made the score respectable.

“When their defense picked up, we didn’t respond very well,” Northridge Coach John Price said.

At least not until the fourth game. The Matadors were their own worst enemy early in that one, returning service to the Gauchos by service error or net violation on eight of their first nine sideouts.

“That was just absolute, pure and simple lack of concentration,” Price said. “There was no excuse for that.”

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When Northridge finally clicked back into gear, Santa Barbara was no match. Kyman provided the exclamation points, accounting for the final two points of the match by blocking Carter Reese’s attempt and then driving a spike through the heart of the Gaucho defense.


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