Between games two and three of the CSUN men’s volleyball match against the Pacific Tigers on Friday, Northridge honored the 1993 men’s volleyball team that advanced to the NCAA championship game and was ranked as high as second in the nation.
Fifteen years later, the 2008 version of the team played like it has the potential to reach similar heights, as it ended its brief two-game home stand with another sweep, taking out the Tigers by scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-20.
The win moves Northridge to 6-2 on the season, 4-1 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play. It’s the best start by the Matadors since 1995, when it started 4-1. CSUN is currently ranked seventh in the nation, while Pacific remains winless in seven matches.
“Those are the hardest games, when a team’s record is not that good and we come out light and don’t take them seriously,” senior setter Travis Bluemling said. “I’m glad we beat them the way we needed to beat them.”
In game one Northridge jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead. CSUN remained in control throughout most of the match, though they were never quite able to shake off the Tigers. CSUN led 19-15 when it won five of the next seven sets to open up a 25-16 lead. Pacific won seven of the next nine points to close the gap to 27-23 and force a Matador timeout, but CSUN sealed the win by splitting the final six sets.
Game two was similar to game one. CSUN led 3-2 until Pacific won four straight sets to force a Matador timeout. Northridge responded by winning four of the next five sets to tie at seven. A kill by Simon Chen-Byerley put the Tigers back in front, but the Matadors won five of the next six sets to prompt a Tiger timeout. The Tigers stayed in the game, getting within two points at 19-17 until the Matadors won three straight sets to force another Pacific timeout. The Tigers again tried to keep pace, getting within three points three times, the last time at 24-21 until CSUN won four of the next five sets to lead 28-22. Pacific won three of the next four sets, but a kill by sophomore middle blocker Kevin McKniff ended game two.
Pacific got off to a good start in game three, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. The Matadors won three straight sets to take the lead. Both teams traded the next six points until the Tigers won consecutive points to take an 8-7 lead. Both teams again traded the next six sets until the Matadors won three straight sets to take a 13-11 lead. Pacific came back with consecutive points to tie the game, but the Matadors took control from there on, winning the next five sets to force a Pacific timeout.
Junior outside hitter Eric Vance smashed a kill for another Matador point following the break, but the Tigers’ Kris Staks ended the run with a kill off a pair of Matador blockers. CSUN simply started another run, winning the next five sets to open up a 27-17 lead, its largest of the entire match. The Matadors split the final six sets to end the game and match.
“It was really important to go out and play hard,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “Even though (Pacific’s) win-loss record isn’t that great, they’re still a great team and they’ve got great players on it, so we feel very happy about how we played tonight.”
Northridge hit .398 throughout the match, led by freshman middle blocker Cody Loe with 13 kills and Vance with 12 kills. Freshman opposite Tanner Nua had 10 kills and Bluemling had 44 assists. The Tigers were led by Staks’ 32 assists, Pekka Seppanen’s 15 kills, Jason Borchin’s 12 kills.
The Matadors now brace for their first big test this coming weekend, as they travel to Provo, Utah for a pair of matches with the top-ranked BYU Cougars.