The No. 2 Matadors get ready to host the defending national champions No. 4 UC Irvine at the Matadome, tonight. For the second consecutive year CSUN is off to a 5-0 record, last year they started 6-0 before losing two straight matches in Hawaii.
“Its still early in the season,” senior middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak said. “We were in the same situation last year, we were undefeated for a long time… We don’t want to make the same kind of mistakes we made last year because we want to go far this year. We definitely have the team to do that. We have big games ahead of us but we just have to take it one game at a time.”
Over the past few years the men’s volleyball program has enjoyed success thanks to a core of players that have played together. Seniors Ali’i Keohohou, Jacek Ratajczak, Kevin McKniff and Mike Guadino have been part of many firsts for the program including the schools first No. 1 ranking two seasons ago.
“The core of this team have been playing for four to five years,” Keohohou said. “So it’s easier to have a lot of leadership on the court at all times instead of a couple of people.”
The senior leadership will be needed tonight against the defending champs who come in having lost two of their first six matches including a five set loss on Friday against top rank USC. The Anteaters have three returning All-Americans in sophomore opposite hitter Carson Clark, junior outside hitter Jordan DuFault and junior middle blocker Kevin Wynne.
Carson had a career-high 26 kills against Pepperdine last Wednesday, while DuFault is coming off his own career-high as well as he put away 30 kills against the Trojans. DuFault was named co-player of the week in the MPSF for his effort. The three-headed monster and the rest of the Anteaters will be looking to take down the Matadors and hand them their first loss of the season.
“We can’t worry about the target on us,” coach Jeff Campbell said. “We just have to try and maintain our goals. Our goal is to treat every play, every game and every match individually. (Also) not get ahead of ourselves and worry about anything else because the moment we start worrying about other things is the moment we start losing. We just have to worry about our task at hand.”
CSUN will counter Irvine’s three All-Americans with a well balance attack led by sophomore setter Matt Stork, who has spread the ball around early in the year. One of the players that has taken advantage of Stork’s good setting is senior outside hitter Theo Edwards who leads the team with 80 kills (a 4.44 kills per game average) and is fourth in MPSF in points per game at 5.53, fifth in kills and ninth in aces with 0.39 service aces per game.
Last season the teams split their series with each team winning on the road.