Men’s volleyball: Aloha: CSUN hosts Hawai’i in back-to-back
The Matadors have worked on hitting consistently and siding out all season long, so it’s no surprise that when they failed to do so in their last three matches, it easily turned into a three-game losing streak.
Head coach Jeff Campbell has watched CSUN (8-13, 4-10 MPSF) hit below .300 in its last three home games. The Matadors are looking to turn things around this weekend against Hawai’i (7-14, 4-12) on Friday and Saturday in order to keep their playoff spot.
“We’re in eighth place now and we need to keep that spot to go to the playoffs,” outside hitter Brandon Lebrock said. “We need to play hard from the get go because if we win both games this weekend we can move up to seventh.”
The Matadors seemed invincible in the Matadome early in the season but have dropped their last three at home. CSUN will end its nine-game homestand with back-to-back matches against the visiting Warriors, who have lost five of their last six.
Hawai’i, which is led by senior outside hitter Steven Hunt, has only won three matches on the road this year. Hunt has tallied 331 kills in 2012, nearly doubling fellow outside hitter JP Marks, who is second in kills.
As a team, the Warriors are hitting .242 compared to the Matadors’ .257 hitting percentage for the year.
CSUN is led by freshman opposite Julius Hoefer and senior outside hitter Matt Stork. Hoefer leads all Matadors with 180 kills, with Stork a close second at 178.
Stork missed the last game against UC San Diego with an injury and also sat out the game before against UC Irvine despite being in full uniform.
Hoefer is returning from an ankle injury that forced him to miss a Feb. 22 game and limited him in the following five games.
The freshman has seen most of his action in the latter sets since his return.
“I feel pretty good,” Hoefer said, looking down at his ankle. “I think I’m back at 100 percent.”
Senior setter Danny Rodrick has started in place of sophomore setter Filip Tomicic, who saw a majority of starts in the beginning of the season.
The Hawai’i-native seems to be getting used to his teammates’ tendencies and is averaging nearly eight assists a set.
“I’ve just been getting used to how everyone gels together on the court,” Rodrick said. “It takes a while to get used to who you’re playing with, but once you do, it makes things a lot easier.”
Rodrick was once a part of the Hawai’i squad and is looking for revenge this weekend.
“I got cut (from the team),” Rodrick said. “It would be nice to beat them this year and rub it in their face.”
With the addition of Rodrick to the starting lineup and injuries to other Matadors, Lebrock has seen a majority of the swings for CSUN.
Lebrock is averaging over 26 attacks a match since Hoefer was originally injured. The sophomore now has 142 kills with 99 of those coming in conference play.
“I’ve just been listening to the coaches and swinging for the court and it’s been working,” Lebrock said. “I just want to keep going for every ball and every set.”
CSUN will need to make some changes before heading into this weekend if it wants to make a late push with only eight games remaining before the playoffs.
“These next two games will decide if we make the playoffs or not,” Hoefer said. “We have to focus on these two games first.”