The CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team has been on quite a ride the last couple of weeks. After spending a week ranked No. 1 in the nation in a tie with Penn State, adversity has hit them lately.
?The Matadors are back to a No. 2 ranking, just one point behind Penn State, despite the fact that neither team played last week. CSUN was also without freshman middle blocker Cody Loe for the first of two matches against the 13th-ranked Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors at the Matadome Tuesday night, and his absence on the court was felt, as Northridge struggled to keep pace with the upset-minded Warriors.
?”We definitely felt (his loss) out there,” sophomore libero Ali’i Keohouhou said about not having Loe, who is injured.
?However, thanks to a spectacular performance from several Matadors, including Keohouhou, CSUN was able to outlast Hawai’i, winning in five games by scores of 30-28, 41-43, 26-30, 30-22 and 15-13.
?The win increases the Matadors winning streak to 12 matches and puts CSUN in a rare position of sweeping the season series from the Rainbow Warriors. The Matadors last accomplished that feat during the 2004 season.
?”I feel very thankful that we won,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “We were able to pull it out, but it certainly wasn’t our best match.”
?Vance was simply at his best Tuesday night, as he swung for a career-high 40 kills and a .326 hitting percentage. Vance had plenty of help, as senior outside hitter Issac Kneubuhl swung for 19 kills, sophomore middle blocker Kevin McKniff had 15 kills, senior setter Travis Bluemling had a career-high 71 set assists, Keohouhou had a career-high 20 digs and sophomore outside hitter Mike Gaudino had a career-high18 digs.
?”We were going to find a way to win (this match),” said Junior outside hitter, Eric Vance.
?Hawai’i was led by freshman outside hitter Brennon Dyer, who swung for a team-high 18 kills. Senior Jacob Schkud had 12 kills, freshmen Keali’i Frank and Joshua Walker had 10 kills apiece, junior setter Sean Carney had 42 assists and sophomore libero Ric Cervantes had 28 digs.
?Campbell said Loe will miss three more matches, meaning that he could return for the Matadors road game against the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on April 5.
“We played so well the last two months with Cody, so were going to have to make adjustments,” Campbell said.
The first two games were tightly contested. CSUN came away with the first game and had the game-point advantage in game two before Hawai’i came back to force sudden death. The two teams went back and forth for 24 more sets before Hawai’i came away with the win.
With the match tied at one win apiece, Hawai’i took control of game three, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. The Warriors led 6-2 when CSUN won four of the next five sets to close to within one. The Matadors continued to play catch up, trailing 11-9 until they won three straight to take a 12-11 lead. Northridge then traded the next 14 sets with Hawai’i to remain in front, but Hawai’i won three straight sets to take a 21-19 lead and force a CSUN timeout.
The Warriors won one more set after the timeout, but the Matadors battled back to win three straight to tie at 22. Hawai’i regained the lead on the next set and later led 24-32 until a Warrior service error and a Vance kill put CSUN back in front 25-24. CSUN led 26-25, but it was all Hawai’i from there, as the Warriors won five straight sets to take game three.
?The Matadors turned the tables in game four, jumping out to a 6-2 lead. The closest Hawai’i got was three, but the Matadors never really let them into the game, controlling game four with an 86 percent sideout percentage and slowly building on its leads throughout the match. The Matadors led by as many as nine on their way to forcing the fifth game.
?Northridge picked up right where it left off, winning the first two sets. Hawai’i responded by winning four of the next six to take a 5-4 lead, but Northridge responded by winning three straight to take a 7-5 lead, then after Hawai’i won three of the next four to tie at eight, the Matadors again won three straight to lead 11-8. That last run was all CSUN needed, as it traded sets with Hawai’i, and the win was sealed when a Warrior attack went long.
?The Matadors played their second match against Hawai’i last night at the Matadome. Results were not available at press time.