The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Matadors upset ranked UC Irvine at home

Outside Hitter Griffin Walters, 12, Middle Blocker Jano Tello, 16, and Opposite Jalen Phillips, 18, fight to push the ball over to the UC Irvine side at home in the Premier America Credit Union Arena in Northridge, Calif. on March 29, 2024.

For the first time since 2010, CSUN’s men’s volleyball defeated two top-three-ranked opponents in the same season.

Just a week after the Matadors upset two-seed Hawaii in Honolulu, CSUN (11-12, 2-4 Big West) defeated UC Irvine (16-7, 5-1 Big West) in the first of the home-and-home series against the Anteaters.

CSUN and UC Irvine began the game exchanging the lead multiple times throughout the first set. The Matadors rallied to win the first set after forcing Irvine to hit .121 and commit nine errors. CSUN capitalized on the mistakes from Irvine and hit .261, hitting 11 kills to take the first set, 25-21.

In the second set, Irvine continued to struggle, hitting .12 again, and faced an early 8-4 deficit. Both Kyle Hobus and Jalen Phillips led the Matadors at the end of the night in kills. They would help CSUN claim the second set with their efforts and maintain their lead over UC Irvine. A Hobus kill on set point would give CSUN the second set win at 25-21, putting them one set shy of sweeping the third-ranked team in the nation.

The Anteaters wouldn’t back down, as Irvine would take the lead over CSUN in the early stages in the third, 13-9. CSUN hit .125 throughout the third and pulled within two towards the late stages of the set after a Phillips kill and Irvine hitting error. CSUN tied the set at 24 apiece after a co-block from Jano Tello and Griffin Walters, but Irivne claimed the final two points and took the third set, 26-24, to avoid being swept.

When asked about the third set loss, head coach Theo Edwards told his team about the adjustment they needed to make to come out with the win.

“I told us to just be patient and take our time and adjust to it,” Edwards said. “Their offense was a little different and we figured what they were gonna do early and made some adjustments late and felt like we started to slow down and figure some things out.”

CSUN hit .393 in the fourth set. They took the opening point and never surrendered the lead again, having a match-high 15 kills in the fourth to Irvine’s nine. Although Irvine went on a late run to cut CSUN’s lead to four at 21-17, the Matadors did not back down and went on a 4-1 run to win. A Phillips kill secured the upset for the Matadors, 25-18.

After the upset, the Premier America Credit Union Arena erupted and the players stormed the court to celebrate. When asked about the energy in the building, Edwards expressed how having home-court is such an advantage in games like this.

“There is no advantage like home-court advantage. Our fans have been fantastic all year, our band has been fantastic all year,” Edwards said. “It’s nice to be in a building where we’re getting tons of support and they’re really supporting us top from bottom.”

CSUN traveled to UCI’s Bren Events Center on Saturday but lost and split the season series with the Anteaters after falling in straight sets.

Irvine defeated CSUN 25-22, 25-21, 30-28, and dropped the Matadors’ overall record to 11-12 and 2-4 in Big West play.

The Matadors open their next series Friday at one-seed Long Beach State at 7 p.m. and return home on Saturday.

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