CSUN upends defending champs

Victor Corona

No. 2 CSUN goes up for the block against No. 4 UC Irvine at the Matadome Wednesday night. Photo Credit: Hannah Pedraza / Photo Editor

A classic first set between two of the nations top teams set the tone as the No. 2 Matadors defeated No. 4 UC Irvine 3-1 in a thrilling match that went back and forth Wednesday at the Matadome. Leading the way for the Matadors were junior opposite hitter Tanner Nua and senior Theo Edwards, who both finished with 18 kills a-piece, while senior outside hitter Mike Gaudino chipped in with 15.

“It’s a huge win for us,” Nua said. “Irvine has won two national championships, they are always a competitive team… so taking a win from a team like that is a big motivational booster.”

The frame began with the Matadors (6-0, 3-0 MPSF) falling behind early in the set then feeding off the crowd they were able to put together a 17-10 run to put them up 20-15. The Anteaters (4-3, 1-2 MPSF) responded with a run of their own, outscoring the Matadors 14-7 to tie the set at 24. The teams went back and forth until the Anteaters were able to gain set point at 29-28, the Matadors took command of the frame from that point on closing with a 3-0 run highlighted by back-to-back blocks that had the Matadome crowd going crazy, as the Matadors won the set 31-29.

“We kind of stole that set,” coach Jeff Campbell said. “They had a one-point lead and then we got a couple of blocks and a serve… so I was really excited to have gotten that game from them.”

The Anteaters exploded early in the second frame, leading most of the second set and were able to get ahead by as many as six at 18-12, Northridge would storm back to tie the frame at 20 on a kill by Edwards. The Anteaters would not let go of their lead the rest of the set as they went on to take the frame 30-27. Nua not only lead the Matadors in kills with eight in the set but kept the team in the frame early by putting away the teams first five kills of the set.

The third set went back and forth as both teams fought for every point by diving for balls and running into the scoring table. The Matadors were able to separate from the see-saw battle a couple of times but were unable to put enough distance as the Anteaters would come back to tie the frame each time they went up by two. With 28-27 advantage, Kevin McKniff put an end to any Irvine comeback with back-to-back service aces that gave the Matadors a 30-27 set win.

Taking advantage of early Anteater mistakes, the Matadors were able to jump out to an early 16-13 lead in the fourth set and eventually stretched it to four at 21-17 on a Jacek Ratajczak kill. The Anteaters continued to fight back little by little but fell short as the Matadors were too much in the end and won the fourth set 30-28.

“ We were just a little more crisp on our passing tonight,” Guadino said. “ We were able to just shut down some of their big players tonight.”