The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team is now ranked third in the nation, after upsetting the number two team, Long Beach State (30-28, 25-30, 30-24, 26-30, 15-13), in a five-game match at the Gold Mine on Friday night. The Matadors, ranked fourth last week, followed up that match by defeating UC San Diego (30-24, 30-22, 20-30, 30-25) in four games on Saturday night, for their eighth straight win.
“It was a great win,” said Eric Vance. “We always play Long Beach really tough and they always play us really tough.With them being so highly ranked, it just made it sweeter.”
Vance continued his hot streak, leading the Matadors with 22 kills in 46 swings (.326) against the 49ers. Vance also had nine digs and four blocks. Issac Kneubuhl hit at a .417 clip, with 20 kills in 36 attempts. He also served up one ace and had six digs. Cody Loe smacked 18 kills in 23 swings for a blistering .783 hitting percentage. Loe also had five blocks and one service ace.
Travis Bluemling had a season-high 67 assists and Ali’i Keohohou dug up 14, while Mike Gaudino had 11 digs.
Kneubuhl said the Matadors’ serving played a big part in the win.
“Our serving and our siding out has been kind of our bread and butter throughout this year,” Kneubuhl said. “I thought we served really well, got them out of their system and it gave us opportunities we needed to convert on a lot of points.”
For Long Beach State, Dean Bittner had 29 kills on 57 swings for a .333 hitting percentage. Paul Lotman had 24 kills in 55 swings, for a .273 hitting clip. Lotman also had 10 digs, along with Dustin Watten. Mike Klipsch had 61 assists.
As a team, the Matadors outhit the 49ers, .365 to .288. Long Beach State edged out CSUN in blocks with 15.5 to 12.0.
“I thought we passed pretty well for the types of serves we were getting,” Kneubuhl said. “When we’re passing well we get to run our middles, which a lot of teams can’t stop.”
Game one was close, with the Matadors hitting at .536 percent and Long Beach at .419 percent. The biggest lead of the game was four points, with Long Beach ahead 10-6 after a service ace by Tommy Pestolesi. CSUN called a timeout and scored the next point on a the teams traded points until a service ace by Mike Gaudino, followed by a 49er error, tied the score at 15-15. Again, the score remained close until consecutive kills by Kneubuhl put CSUN ahead 29-27. Long Beach got the score to 29-28, but Kneubuhl smashed a kill to give CSUN the 30-28 win.
The second game was close until Long Beach started to pull away after a 15-15 tie. Bittner knocked down consecutive kills for a 22-18 Long Beach lead, prompting a CSUN timeout. The Matadors were unable to stop the 49er attack and kills by Lotman, combined with CSUN errors for a 30-25 win for Long Beach.
In game three, CSUN jumped out to a 8-4 lead on a kill by Gaudino. The Matadors continued to lead, fueled by kills by Kneubuhl, Vance and Loe to force a Long Beach timeout at 20-14. The 49ers successfully reversed the tide, coming back to tie the score at 20-20. Vance and Kneubuhl combined on kills to win the game 30-24.
After a close start, the 49ers started to pull away in the fourth game after a kill by Lotman put the 49ers ahead 7-6. Long Beach continued to hold the lead, with the Matadors closing in after a kill by Vance got CSUN within one at 25-24. The 49ers retained the lead and Dan Alexander sealed the 30-26 win with a kill.
Game five looked good for the 49ers as they quickly had a 4-0 lead. After a timeout, the Matadors came back with kills by Kneubuhl and Loe, followed by an ace by Vance to tie the score at 4-4. The two teams traded points and were tied at 13-13 when Loe smashed a kill to givet CSUN a 14-13 lead. The Matadors scored the game-winning point on an attack error by Bittner, for a 15-13 score.
The Matadors continued their road trip south, taking on UC San Diego on Saturday. Kevin McKniff led CSUN with 18 kills on 24 swings for a .708 hitting percentage. Kneubuhl had 14 kills, followed by Vance and Loe with 11 each. Vance also had two service aces and Loe had seven blocks. Bluemling had 56 assists and Gaudino had 11 digs.
For the Tritons, Jason Spangler led the offense with 21 kills and Phil Sannan had 36 assists. Eric Lesserman had a team-high 13 digs.
CSUN led early in the first game, with Bluemling knocking down a kill for the 6-2 lead. San Diego tied the score at 7-7 , but the Matadors pulled away again, with their biggest lead coming off a kill by Kneubuhl at 27-20. Gaudino smashed a kill for the 30-24 win.
In game two, the Matadors again jumped out to an early lead, with kills by Loe combining with San Diego errors for a 10-5 Northridge lead. CSUN extended its lead to as many as eight points, with Gaudino again smashing the winning kill for a 30-22 win.
UC San Diego forced an early CSUN timeout after they took a 7-0 lead in the third game. The Matadors came back to score some points, but never got closer than five in the game. Unable to make up the deficit, the Matadors lost the game 30-20 after an ace by the Tritons’ Calvin Ross.
The fourth game started close, but the Matadors started to pull away after a 7-7 tie. CSUN’s biggest lead of the game was at 22-14, after kills by Kneubuhl and Vance combined with errors by the Tritons. The Matadors took the 30-25 win after a Triton service error.
Northridge looks to extend its winning streak tonight when it begins a six-game homestand.
“The sky’s the limit right now,” Kneubuhl said.
The Matadors host UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m at the Matadome.