CSUN's Baer Is Golden in Five-Game Victory : College volleyball: Former Wave enters in second game and leads Matador rally.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Already one of the crowd favorites among the Cal State Northridge faithful, Jon Baer's stock went through the roof of Matador Gymnasium Wednesday night when he keyed the Matadors' 7-15, 13-15, 15-11, 15-7, 15-11 victory over Pepperdine in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball match.

The victory was the sixth in the last seven matches for Northridge (16-9, 11-7 in conference play) and clinched a berth in the conference tournament--which starts April 23 at Stanford--as well as a third-place finish in the Mountain Division standings.

"This was sweet revenge tonight," said Baer, who attended Pepperdine for a year after graduating from Fresno Bullard High in 1990. "I respect (Waves' Coach Marv Dunphy), but this is really sweet."

Baer, a rock-solid 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior outside hitter, spent most of the season backing up freshman Jason Hughes, but with Hughes struggling, Northridge Coach John Price inserted Baer into the lineup late in the second game and the move immediately paid dividends.

With Northridge trailing, 13-9, and Pepperdine serving, Baer blasted a shot through a Wave block to force a sideout.

Led by Baer, who had four kills in five attempts, the Matadors trimmed their deficit to 14-13 before losing.

But the momentum of the match definitely swung Northridge's way as the Matadors raced to a 12-5 lead in the third game. Pepperdine (12-8, 10-8) whittled the deficit to 12-11, but Northridge scored the final three points of the game.

Baer, who had a career-high 34 kills--with a .509 hitting percentage--had 11 kills in 18 attempts and only one hitting error in the third game.

The Matadors and Waves were tied, 7-7, midway through the fourth game before the Matadors scored the final eight points to force a fifth game, which was played on a rally-scoring basis.

Northridge surged to a 9-5 lead in the final game, saw its advantage cut to 11-9 by the Waves, but finished strongly to close out the match with a 15-11 victory.

"I just wanted to play steady," said Baer, who was surrounded by well-wishers after the match.

"I just wanted to play my game, not try to do too much, and just let the sets come to me, and if they were good and the court was open, take a a good full swing at the ball."

Oliver Heitmann had 21 kills for Northridge and Craig Hewitt added 17.

Dain Blanton led Pepperdine with 34 kills.

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