After struggling to defeat the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors in the first match between the two teams on Tuesday night, the second-ranked CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team left very little doubt 24 hours later as to who was the better team.
The Matadors had a much easier time with the 13th-ranked Warriors on Wednesday night. CSUN was much smoother and more efficient on the court and the end result was a three-game sweep of the Rainbow Warriors at the Matadome by scores of 30-21, 30-25 and 30-28.
“We were more ready to play at a high level,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “We served real well, we passed real well. I was very pleased with the effort we had.”
The win stretches CSUN’s win streak to 13 matches and also marks the first three-game sweep of Hawai’i since 1993. The Matadors also sweep the season series from the Warriors for the first time since 2004.
Junior outside hitter Eric Vance once again led the way for the Matadors, as he swung for a team-high 15 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Kevin McKniff had 12 kills, senior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl had nine kills, senior setter Travis Bluemling had 43 assists, sophomore libero Ali’i Keohohou had 24 digs, and sophomore outside hitter Mike Gaudino had 19 digs to go along with nine kills.
“We weren’t all there (Tuesday night), but tonight, we came out determined to beat them down quick,” Bluemling said.
Hawai’i was led by freshman opposite Brennon Dyer, who swung for 21 kills. Freshman opposite Joshua Walker had 11 kills, junior setter Sean Carney had 25 assists and sophomore libero Ric Cervantes had 10 digs.
The only moment of doubt came in game three, when after winning the first two games handily, Northridge struggled to put away a Hawai’i team that was desperately trying to avoid the sweep. CSUN led by no more than two points and trailing 24-22, the Warriors won the next three sets to take the lead and force a CSUN time out. Hawai’i got one more point on a Schkud kill, but gave the ball back to Northridge on a service error. Kneubuhl went off a pair of Hawai’i blockers to tie the game and McKniff spiked home a free-ball on the next set to put the Matadors back?in front.
Hawai’i got the ball back on a service error, Vance put the Matadors back in front, the Warriors tied it again on a service error and on the next set, Kneubuhl swung a ball into the Warrior back row that just stayed inside the back line, putting the Matadors at match point. McKniff then pinned a Warrior for an ace serve to end the match.?
“I could tell we were down by everyone’s emotion,” Bluemling said of game three. “I had no idea what the score was, but I knew we were going to win.”?
Game one was tight early on. Hawai’i led 8-7 until CSUN won three straight sets to take a 10-8 lead. The Warriors won three of four sets to tie at 11, but CSUN got the ball back when a Schkud serve went into the net and McKniff sent a bullet into the Matadome floor to give the Matadors a two-point edge. CSUN led 15-14 when it won four straight sets to open up a 19-14 lead, then leading 20-16, won four more straight sets to take a 24-16 lead and the Matadors coasted from there.
Game two was a little closer. After conceding the first point, the Matadors won three straight, but Hawai’i stayed in the second game, trading the next 23 sets to trail by only one at 14-13. Vance, however, got on a bit of a hot streak after that, going off a pair of Hawai’i blockers for a kill, then aced on consecutive serves to gave the Matadors a 17-13 lead and force a Warrior time out. CSUN won two more sets after the time out, then after conceding a point on a service error, CSUN won three more sets to take a 22-14. Northridge led 25-17 when Hawai’i went on a little run, winning five of the next six sets to cut the Northridge lead to 26-22, forcing a Matador time out. CSUN however answered with three of four sets after the time out and the Matadors clinched the second game two sets later.
“Tonight, we came out to play,” Kneubuhl said.
CSUN closed out its six-match home stand with a non-conference match against Hope-International on Friday.