A new game plan designed to jumpstart the offense and to improve the team’s defensive woes were not enough to generate a victory for the free-falling Matadors.
The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team shifted and shuffled the starting lineup to create more scoring opportunities and better blocking schemes. The Matadors are now on a six-match losing streak, the longest since the 2001 season.
CSUN (2-9, 1-5 MPSF) was swept in back-to-back non-conference matches against the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions at the Penn State Tournament in University Park, Pennsylvania.
There were three teams that were part of last season’s NCAA Final Four.
Even with a change in the lineups and rotations, a very good offensive team in Ohio State exposed the Matadors’ problems. The Buckeyes had been averaging a .356 hitting percentage.
Northridge wasn’t able to get anything going. The team had an abysmal .118 hitting percentage that proved to be too much of an obstacle against the high-scoring Ohio State, which hit .443.
The match had setter Matt Stork at outside hitter, where his lack skill at the position was prominent. He hit .000 with six kills and six errors.
Senior hitter Tanner Nua led the Matadors with nine kills, hitting a season-high .400.
Ninth-ranked Ohio State (5-2, 1-0 MIVA) was led by opposite hitter Shawn Sangrey, who hit .476 with 15 kills.
Stork does not blame the new approach as the primary cause for the loss. He said the success of last year belongs to that team, but this team will work hard to improve.
“Just (because) we didn’t win doesn’t mean that the plan didn’t work. I think this plan can work but its not going to work right away,” Stork said. “Our success in the past is our downfall now. I think people are expecting us to be some great team since we did so well last year, but we aren’t the same team.”
The Matadors faced the Nittany Lions Saturday, the team that eliminated them in the Final Four.
CSUN was facing an eight-ranked Penn State squad that was first in its conference in hitting percentage with .351 and at the top in kills and assists.
The Nittany Lions were nothing short of that.
In a match where Northridge hit .242, one of the better offensive performances of the season, Penn State (7-1, 2-0 EIVA) hit .357, right around its average of .351.
CSUN recovered from the previous night’s debacle by improving its hitting, jumping by more than 100 points. The Lions’ was led by outside hitters Scott Kegerreis and Joe Sunder, who combined for 25 of the team’s 44 kills.
Northridge was again led by Nua, who was the only Matador to record over 10 kills, finishing with 11 and a .400 percentage.
Stork said inexperience continues to play a major part in the team’s ongoing struggles.
“The only thing that it means is that we need to get better. We are a young team with very little experience playing at this level,” Stork said. “It is always tough to get wins right away when we are as inexperienced as we are.”
Freshman middle blocker Greg Faulkner, who leads the Matadors in blocks, said the lineup changes are a significant cause for the losses, but cites the need for perfection as a major reason as well.
“I don’t think losing is affecting us as much as it looks,” Faulkner said. “Pressure to play perfect is what’s really bothering our mindsets. We’re out there playing so tense instead of just going out there relaxed and ready to have fun.”