The CSUN men’s volleyball team put up a fight in its two games with the top-ranked Brigham Young Cougars in Provo, Utah over the weekend.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to prevent yet another two-match sweep at the hands of the host Cougars, as they took the first match on Friday in four games, then withstood a furious two-game comeback by the Matadors to hold them off in five games the next night.
The two losses dropped the Matadors to 6-4, 4-3 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play and they are now in fifth place in the conference. BYU meanwhile remains perfect on the season at 9-0, 4-0 in MPSF play. The Matadors have now lost 13 of their last 14 trips to Provo, Utah.
“We played well at times and we played bad at times,” junior outside hitter Eric Vance said. “It’s really hard to play up there. It’s a great atmosphere for (BYU) and it’s hard to play in the altitude, but nothing to take away from BYU. They’re a great team.”
In the first match, the Cougars held a 12-10 lead, but CSUN came back to take a 17-16 lead. The Matadors held a 23-21 lead until the Cougars battled back to tie the match at 25. BYU then took the next two sets and eventually took the first game 30-28.
Undeterred, the Matadors jumped out to an early 7-3 lead in game two. BYU won consecutive sets, but that was the closest the Cougars got, as the Matadors raised their advantage to 13-8 and coasted from there, taking the second game 30-19. Game three saw a role reversal. though the final score was the same as the second game, as BYU jumped out to a 9-5 lead and fed off it the rest of the game, leading by as many ten points on its way to the win.
The Matadors fought hard to stave off elimination in game four. The game was tied at 13 when the Matadors won two of the next three sets to take a 15-14 lead. BYU came back by winning two of the next three to re-take the lead. The two teams continued to go back and forth until BYU held a 25-23 lead and won two of the next three sets to propel themselves to the 30-26 win.
Vance led the Matador offense with 18 kills. Freshman middle blocker Cody Loe had 11 kills, sophomore opposite Mike Gaudino had 10 kills, senior setter Travis Bluemling had 45 assists and sophomore libero Ali’i Keohohou had 13 digs.
Ivan Perez led the Cougars with 20 kills and 10 digs, Jonathan Charette had 16 kills and Trent Sorensen had 11 kills. Brian Congelliere had 22 assists, while Reed Chilton had 15 assists and Andrew Stewart had 12 digs.
The Matadors hoped to redeem themselves in the second match the following night, but the Cougars threatened to make it a short night, as they won the first game 30-20 and the second game 30-24.
CSUN didn’t fold though, as it jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in game three. BYU came back to tie at seven and held an 11-9 lead until the Matadors won the next five sets to take the lead and hold on the rest of the way, avoiding the sweep with a 30-25 win.
Game four was close all the way. The Matadors led early in the match, but the Cougars kept the Matadors within sight and eventually took a 19-18 lead until CSUN won the next four sets and built a five point lead. BYU, however, chipped away at the lead and eventually caught Northridge at 24. The two teams battled all the way to sudden death, and BYU held a 31-30 lead, but the Matadors again didn’t fold and eventually stayed alive one more time with a 36-34 win.
BYU would not be denied on its home court and started off hot in game five, as it jumped out to a 6-2 lead. The Cougar lead eventually grew to 9-5 and CSUN never threatened again, losing game five 15-8.
“Things went their way,” Vance said of the fifth game. “Balls rolled off the tape, they got some lucky plays and they were playing good.”
Senior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl had a team-high 22 kills while Loe had 20 kills for the Matadors. Sophomore middle blocker Kevin McKniff had 14 kills, Gaudino had 10 kills, Bluemling had 59 assists and Keohohou had 10 digs.
BYU was led by Charette’s 23 kills, Perez’s 21 kills and 11 kills and 10 blocks from Russell Holmes. Congelliere had 46 assists, Yamil Perez had 10 assists and Joel Silva had 15 digs.
“They’re definitely beatable,” Vance said. “We could’ve beaten them, if a couple different plays went our way. If we had gotten a couple balls up, I think we could’ve beaten them.”
The Matadors hope to redeem themselves next weekend, as they travel to Northern California for two more matches. CSUN will play the Pacific Tigers in Stockton on Friday, followed by a trip to Stanford for a match with the Cardinal the next day. Both matches start at 7 p.m.