SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton got off to a rough start and could not recover as they fell 3-1 (12-25, 19-25, 25-16, 18-25) to Northwestern in their opener of the USD –SDSU Classic Friday afternoon at Jenny Craig Pavilion on the campus of the University of San Diego.
The Titans (2-2) got an excellent performance from freshman Niki Withers, who recorded a match-high 20 kills with a .227 hitting percentage. But Withers was the only Titans player to record double-digit kills and the Titans hit just .139 as a team while the Wildcats (4-0) put together a more balanced attack as four players recorded at least 10 kills. Yewande Akanbi led the undefeated Wildcats with 17 kills with Symone Abbot, Katie Dutchman and Kayla Morin each adding 10.
For the Titans, reigning Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week McKenna Painton paced the Titans defense with 15 digs while setter Mackenzie Olsen dished out 35 assists, which tied her season high. Megan Kurz added seven kills and freshman Katelyn Nielsen pitched in with six and two blocks. Stephanie Buss, who led the team in blocks coming into the match, paced the Titans at the net with four blocks (one solo).
The Titans struggled coming out of the gates, dropping eight of the first nine points to the Wildcats in the first set and never recovered, getting doubled up in the opening frame. After dropping the second set, the Titans responded in the third by hitting .379 as a team in the frame. They were also all over the court on defense, recording 15 digs including four apiece from Painton and sophomore Rachel Brown.
Withers hammered down six kills in the third set while Holland Crenshaw had four of her five kills in the frame. The Titans would close out the set on a 10-3 scoring run.
The Titans jumped out to a 7-5 advantage in the fourth set, but the Wildcats put together a 7-0 run to take control of the match and would go on to close out the match.
Fullerton will head down the road on Saturday for the second day of the USD – SDSU Classic as they take on Villanova at noon followed by a match with Brown at 4 p.m. from Aztec Court on the campus of San Diego State. They close out the tournament Sunday against the Aztecs at 1 p.m.
Notes: After starting the match with four kills and four errors, Withers finished the afternoon with 16 kills and six errors… The match had 10 ties and two lead changes… The Titans outhit the Wildcats .379 to .086 in the third set. It was the only set in which the Wildcats hit under .242… Cal State Fullerton did not take their first lead until midway through the third set, the latest it has taken the Titans this season to take a lead… The Titans were held to 12 points in the opening frame, their lowest point total in a set through four matches this season.