When CSUN played its two matches against BYU at Provo, Utah back on Feb. 1 and 2, the Matadors didn’t field a full squad for either match, but were able to push the Cougars in both, losing in four games in the first match and taking BYU the full five in the rubber match
The third time, however, despite fielding a full squad and playing on a neutral court, the second-seeded Cougars left little doubt as to who was the better team. BYU was in full control of its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinal match against the third-seeded Matadors on Thursday night, as BYU swept Northridge at Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid by scores of 30-22, 30-28 and 30-26.
“We did not play as well as we did all year,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “We’re all disappointed, but I think BYU just outplayed us tonight.”
The loss, combined with fifth-seeded Pepperdine upsetting the top-seeded 49ers in a sweep earlier that evening, makes CSUN’s chances of receiving an at-large bid to the Final Four in Irvine very slim.
?”I think it’s a stretch at this point,” Campbell said. “We’re in the same predicament as Long Beach.”
?The Cougars got big games from a pair of seniors. Outside Hitter Ivan Perez had 16 kills and opposite Jonathan Charette had 11 kills. Sophomore Yamil Perez had 35 set assists.
For the Matadors, junior outside hitter Eric Vance led the offense with 16 kills, senior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl had nine kills and senior setter Travis Bluemling had 35 assists.
?BYU (25-4) asserted themselves right from the first serve by jumping out to a 5-1 lead, forcing Campbell to call an early timeout. The Cougars were just getting started, as they raised their advantage to 12-5, forcing Campbell to call another timeout. The BYU lead peaked at eight the first time at 17-9 and CSUN (23-7) could get no closer than five, as the Cougars rolled to the easy game one win.
?Game two started out exactly like game one, with BYU rolling out to a 5-1 lead, forcing an early Matador timeout. This time however, Northridge was able to keep the match from getting out of control, as it trailed 8-4, but won the next three sets to get within one, but the Cougars then won four of the next six sets to take a 12-9 lead. Northridge responded by winning four of the next six sets to close to within a point, but the Cougars again responded, this time by winning the next three sets to raise it to a four-point lead. BYU held on to the slim lead throughout the second game, leading 26-23 when Vance swooped in from the back row for a kill and Kneubuhl sent a serve into an opening at BYU’s right side for an ace to again pull CSUN within one and force the Cougars to take its first timeout of the match.
?Ivan Perez got the ball back for BYU on the set following the break and senior middle blocker Trent Sorensen returned sophomore middle blocker Kevin McKniff’s attack to raise the Cougar lead back to three. Vance pinned Silva for a Matador point, but sent a serve long to put the Cougars at game point. Northridge made another run, getting the ball back when Sorensen sent a serve long, and sophomore outside hitter Andrew Stewart sent a ball long to put the Matadors within a point of sudden death. After a BYU timeout, sophomore outside hitter Mike Gaudino successfully dug out a ball hit by Charette, the ball went towards Vance, who was ready for the set, but Bluemling came in and both players ended up making contact with the ball and a lift violation was called, ending game two in BYU’s favor.
?Both teams split the first six sets, but then the Cougars won the next three sets and CSUN once again had to play catch-up. The Cougars kept its lead around three throughout the early part of game three and led 15-12 when Northridge came back, winning the next three sets to tie the match and force a Cougar timeout. Northridge continued to stay within striking distance of BYU, getting within one at 18-17 when a ball hit by Ivan Perez was originally ruled a kill, but was overturned when the officials concluded the ball made no contact with any of the Northridge players. The questionable call though seemed to fire up the Cougars, as they won the next three sets to take a 21-17 lead.
?Ivan Perez was again at the center of a controversial call, when he sent a ball wide left and out of bounds, but this time, Perez got the call in its favor, as the officials ruled the ball made contact with a Matador block, sending some of Northridge’s players into a frenzy. The ruling gave the Cougars a 25-22 lead.
?”We were a little chaotic at times and I think the pressure got to us a little bit,” Campbell said.
?Vance spiked a ball into BYU’s midcourt on the ensuing set for a kill and Gaudino aced on the ensuing serve to get the Matadors to within a point and force a BYU timeout, but just as it had throughout games two and three, the Cougars responded one more time, winning consecutive sets to force a Matador timeout, and BYU closed out the match by winning three of the next five sets.
?”Every time we made a run, we would make some kind of mistake and lose all the momentum,” Vance said. “We would play well, then we would play bad. We were very hot and cold today and could do nothing steady all match.”