In a five-set thriller at the Matadome No. 1 CSUN defeats No. 2 USC

Victor Corona

Theo Edwards, left, recorded 16 kills in the Matadors five set victory over the Trojans, Wednesday night at the Matadome. Photo Credit: Ryan Hecksel / Staff Photographer

The Matadome was rocking on Wednesday night as the No. 1 Matadors pulled out a fifth-set win over No. 2 USC and won 3-2 after being up two sets to none.

Junior opposite hitter Tanner Nua led four Matadors in double-digit kills with 17, and senior outside hitter Theo Edwards added 16, while senior middle blockers Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak finished with 11 apiece.

“Absolutely the biggest win I have ever been a part of,” Edwards said.

The biggest crowd of the season and chants of “let’s go CSUN” set the tone for the match as the Matadors got out to a two set to none lead.

“It was incredible. I didn’t expect that at all,” Ratajczak said of the Matadome turnout. “ I loved it, I hope it happens every time.”

The Trojans (6-3, 4-2 MPSF) held a slim advantage in the early part of the first frame until a 4-0 run by the Matadors allowed them to take a 14-13 lead on a kill by Nua. The Matadors (9-1, 6-1 MPSF) were unable to hold on to the lead as they went back and forth the rest of the set. Tied at 25, the Matadors were finally able to pull away with a 4-0 run, highlighted by two huge kills by senior outside hitter Mike Gaudino.

The Matadors continued the momentum from the end of the first set to get out to an early 10-5 lead in the second set on a kill by Gaudino. The Trojans responded by cutting the lead to one at 13-12 on back-to-back kills by junior opposite hitter Murphy Troy. USC continued to chip away at the Matador lead and eventually tied the frame at 18. The Matadors answered with a 6-2 run to stretch the lead back to four at 24-20, and the Trojans did not go away, getting within 29-28 before a kill by McKniff ended the set and gave the Matadors a 2-0 set advantage.

Unfazed by being down two sets to none, the Trojans raced out to a 6-0 lead and never looked back as they went up by as many as 21 and won the set 30-9. At one point in the frame coach Jeff Campbell pulled many of his starters after the team hit -.182 in the set.

“I just felt it was a good a opportunity for them to rest and get ready for the next game,” Campbell said. “At that point the odds of us coming back to win were pretty slim.”

The Trojans did not let up in the fourth set, opening the frame with an 11-6 advantage. Nua did his best to keep the Matadors in the set with six kills in the frame. The Matadors were able to get within three at 24-21 but USC was tough down the stretch and won the set 30-26 forcing a decisive fifth set.

“Our passing broke down, and we couldn’t do anything in those two sets,” Ratajczak said. “They played really well. You got to give them some credit and they carried the momentum from the third set.”

In the fifth set the Matadors got out to a 3-0 lead before the Trojans came back to tie at three. Nua put an end to the Trojan run with a kill, then USC answered back and tied the score at four. A kill by Ratajczak and a service ace by Edwards gave the Matadors a 7-4 advantage. The Trojans kept fighting and were able to get within 10-8 before the Matadors put the set away and won the match on back-to-back points by Nua.

“We came out with fire. The crowd was really into it and it pumped us up in that fifth, and we were fired up and we were not going to lose,” Nua said.