The 10th ranked CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team showed it wasn’t afraid of the third ranked BYU Cougars this past weekend.
The Matadors made a statement right away, winning the first match in four games by scores of 30-27, 30-17, 21-30 and 30-27 on Friday night and the following night, threatened to pull off an improbable two-match sweep of the Cougars, winning the first game 30-27, but ultimately, the Cougars were not to be denied, as it won the final three games by scores of 32-30, 30-28 and 30-28 to salvage the split.
In game one on Friday night, the Cougars jumped out to a 5-2 lead. The lead stayed around three numerous times, then with CSUN trailing 11-9, BYU won four of five sets to take a 15-10 lead and force a timeout. Northridge though didn’t let them get further, and slowly started chipping away at the Cougar lead. BYU led 19-15 until CSUN won three straight sets to force a Cougar timeout. A Dan Rhodes stuff block tied the game at 19 and an ace serve by Pederson gave Northridge the lead. The game was tied at 22 until an attack error gave the Matadors the ball back and Rhodes sent a serve perfectly down BYU’s right boundary line for an ace to make it a two-point CSUN lead and force a Cougar timeout.
BYU won four of the next six sets to tie the game at 26, forcing a CSUN timeout, but the Matadors caught fire, getting the ball back. A Matador net violation only delayed the inevitable, as a serve by Yamil Perez instead found the net, giving CSUN the game one win.
Game two was all CSUN. The game was tied at seven until the Matadors won the next three sets and two more following a BYU timeout to take a 12-7 lead. Both teams traded the next five sets until CSUN again won three straight sets and two more following a Cougar timeout to take a 19-10 lead. BYU won three of the next four sets to close the lead to 20-13, but that was a close as the Cougars got, as CSUN further gained control with a five-point run that gave it a 25-13 lead, and CSUN cruised from there.
BYU finally started showing signs of life in game three, CSUN trailed 4-3 until BYU won the next three sets to raise its lead to 7-3. BYU held onto its lead throughout the game, and went on to win the third-game.
Though the Cougars had prevented the sweep, it could not ultimately prevent a Matador win. Game four was close all the way, as the lead switched hands several times and neither team held more than a two-point advantage. The last tie was at 27, but a Perez serve error gave CSUN the ball back, then a Cougar net violation put Northridge at game point and Isaac Kneubuhl went off a pair of BYU blockers to end game four and with it, the match.
Northridge’s teamwork was evident throughout the first match, as not one Matador reached double-digits in kills. Rhodes led the team with nine kills, Kneubuhl and Vance had eight apiece and Lischer and Kyle Waite had seven kills apiece. CSUN’s defense was also a factor in the match, as the Matadors finished with nine stuff blocks.
CSUN hoped for a repeat performance the following night, and things looked good in game one. Things were close early on, as the first game was tied at 17 until the Matadors won three straight sets to take a 20-17 lead, forcing a BYU timeout. The Matador lead stayed around three the next couple sets, the last time at 26-23 until kills by Robby Stowell and Perez cut the lead to one and force a CSUN timeout. BYU ultimately tied the game at 27, but Vance went off a Cougar block for the lead and a Rhodes kill but CSUN at game point. A BYU timeout only delayed the inevitable, as Rhodes went off a pair of BYU blockers to seal the first game for Northridge.
The Cougars though weren’t going to let down a second straight night, and they took the challenge to the Matadors in game two. CSUN did lead early in the match, the last time at 11-10 until back-to-back Cougar kills gave BYU the lead and forced a CSUN timeout. BYU stayed in front from there on, though the Matadors stayed right with them. The Cougars led 25-22 until a Cougar serve error and a Vance ace serve cut the lead to one and forced a BYU timeout. The Matadors tied the game when Pederson and senior middle blocker Isaac Kneubuhl stuff-blocked Yosleyder Cala, but the Cougars won the next three sets to take a 28-25 lead, but CSUN won four of the next five sets to force sudden death. Cala but BYU at game point, a Cougar two-hit violation tied the game at 30, but kills by Stowell and Ivan Perez put an end to game two.
Rhodes started game three with a kill, but the Cougars won the next five sets to take a 5-1 lead and force a CSUN timeout. Vance stopped that run, but the Cougars won three of the next four sets to take an 8-3 lead. The Cougars continued to assert control in game three, as BYU won four of five sets to turn a 13-8 lead into a comfortable 17-9 advantage. The Matadors though didn’t give in, and started to slowly chip away at the Cougar lead, which was 23-15 until Northridge won three straight sets to force a BYU timeout. CSUN eventually cut the lead to 27-26, but kills by Stowell and Sorenson put BYU at game point.
BYU again led early in game four, this time at 7-4 until CSUN won four straight sets to take an 8-7 lead. The Cougars followed with three in a row to take a 10-8 lead. Northridge won three of four sets to tie the game at 11, BYU regained the lead on a serve error, but kills by Vance and Lischer gave CSUN a 13-12 lead.
BYU answered with four of five sets to take a 16-14 lead and held on to that lead the next several sets. The Matadors did catch the Cougars at 21, Cala gave BYU the lead back, but a Lischer kill and a Vance ace serve gave CSUN a 23-22 lead. The lead though was only temporary, as the Cougars won the next three sets to force a Matador timeout and won another set to lead 26-23. The Matadors won three of four sets to close the deficit to 27-26, but the BYU was not to be denied, as it won three of the final five sets to close out the match and salvage the weekend split.