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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CSUN men’s volleyball falls to top-ranked Long Beach State

The Matadors huddle after scoring a point against Long Beach State on Saturday, April 6 in Northridge, Calif.

In a historic season in which they knocked off the second, third, and fourth-ranked teams in the nation, CSUN men’s volleyball (11-14, 2-6 Big West Conference) was feeling it. Splitting the last two series’ against second-ranked Hawaii and third-ranked UC Irvine, the Matadors had their sights set on the top dog in the nation—Long Beach State (22-1, 8-0 Big West Conference).

They lost the first game at Long Beach Friday, but when Saturday rolled around, the Matadors were feeling different. They were feeling like the confident team they have become over the years.

When they jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, the Premier America Credit Union Arena was shaking.

The Beach had 12 shutouts entering the match on Saturday. Eight different teams have managed to take a set off them, and UCLA is the only school that has beaten them. CSUN hoped to be the second.

Four errors by the Beach gave CSUN the early lead. This was a promising start for the Matadors in their quest to do the impossible, but in game one, they went up 4-0 before allowing Long Beach back in. Once the 49ers took the lead, they never looked back. CSUN wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen for the second night in a row.

“We had a rough, rough night last night,” outside hitter Kyle Hobus said. “So I think a lot of the guys, you know, just wanted to come back and, and show them what we could do.”

The teams exchanged kills, aces and errors until it was 9-6 CSUN. Still in front, the Matadors looked good.

Long Beach took four of the next five points to tie it at 10, looking to flip the momentum. But the Matadors continued to stay in front, alternating points with the 49ers until it was tied at 14.

Then, a service error by Long Beach and a service ace from Jano Tello put CSUN back up by two. The Matadors looked to keep the one seed at bay and kept the two-point lead until it was 19-17. Three straight points gave the 49ers their first lead of the match.

Each time Long Beach secured a kill or the Matadors made an error, CSUN’s hopes of taking the first set dwindled. Tello went for two kills to tie it at 21 and give the Matadors a chance to take the lead back. A kill from outside hitter Nathan Harlan, who had six in the first frame, and a rare bad set from setter Donovan Constable, gave Long Beach a two-point lead, and they would not look back.

“Against a team like this, they thrive on errors and we made a bunch down the stretch, and it was kind of the difference between us at the end of sets,” head coach Theo Edwards said. “If we win that first one. I think we got a legitimate shot at taking the match.”

After the roller coaster of a first set came to an end, the rest of the match played out in much the same way as the game the day before.

The Matadors played on their heels, and once they fell behind 6-2 in the second set, they couldn’t string together enough points to come back. Unable to score more than two points in a row, CSUN fell behind as much as five before losing the set 25-21.

A scary moment happened in the second set for the Matadors when Constable went down with a leg injury. Though the junior didn’t return, Hobus thinks he’ll be all right as he recovers throughout the week.

The third set was closer in the beginning. CSUN kept it within two thanks to four kills from opposite Jalen Phillips until it was 10-9 Long Beach. Starting with the 49ers’ ninth point, however, opposite Skyler Varga went on a tear, hitting five kills to balloon the lead to five.

The Matadors continued struggling and fell behind 21-15, their hopes of pulling off the upset hanging on the ropes. Just as the match seemed over, three straight errors by Long Beach cut CSUN’s deficit in half.

A kill by outside hitter Sotiris Siapanis made it 22-18, but two more attack errors by the 49ers left them up only two. Siapanis and Phillips exchanged kills back and forth until it was 24-21. Long Beach needed one more point to win the match, and an attack error from Phillips ended the Matadors’ chances of pulling off a miracle.

Long Beach State averaged .359 to the Matadors’ .297 and had nine more kills. The Matadors had a three-point edge in the service errors department but gave up seven service aces while only hitting one. CSUN averages 1.66 service aces per set, which is why it was a surprise to see them hit only one throughout the entire match.

Hobus and Phillips combined for 20 of the Matadors’ 34 kills, and Tello had the lone service ace. For the 49ers, Harlan and Varga each had 11 kills, while Siapanis led the way with 13.

Beating a team that has lost only once is a tough task, but the Matadors will have to plan for them again in a possible Big West playoff rematch.

The Matadors have two games left against UC Santa Barbara, who’s a game back of CSUN for sixth in the Big West standings. Edwards said that to win, they have to replicate the energy they played with in parts of that first set.

“We know what it takes to win and we know that it’s incredibly hard and you gotta earn them, and Santa Barbara is no different,” Edwards said. “So we gotta go in there with that same tenacity that we played in stretches here tonight and I think we’ll be just fine if we do.”

The Matadors will play at Santa Barbara Friday and will host the Gauchos Saturday to wrap up the regular season.

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