A 111-minute match, 11 more errors, 11 less blocks, 11 more total attack attempts and an abysmal .178 hitting percentage and the Matadors still won.
The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball finally attained that elusive first home victory of the 2011 season, defeating second-ranked Long Beach State in a conference matchup 25-11, 25-16, 25-21, 25-22, 16-14.
The Matadors (3-9, 2-5 MPSF) came back from two sets down to topple a 49er team that was on a four-match winning streak and was well on its way to a fifth consecutive victory.
“We’re really happy about winning,” coach Jeff Campbell said. “We didn’t play particularly well in the first two games, but we steadied out in games three and four and put together a nice game five.”
The match changed hands in game three when Northridge put together a 10-5 rally after trading points early. Freshman middle blocker Greg Faulkner put together a string of five kills that enabled the Matadors to gain a substantial lead.
Faulkner’s block of Long Beach’s Antwain Aguillard gave CSUN a 23-18 lead and prompted a timeout from the 49er bench. He then ended the game with a hard kill down the middle, capturing CSUN’s first game since Jan. 19, snapping a string of 17 consecutive game losses.
The match intensified in a fourth game that saw 19 ties and nine lead changes with not one team able to attain a momentum-changing lead. Faulkner’s ace after a Matt Stork chip-in kill tied the match at two-all.
The victory masks the way Northridge was overmatched in the first two games. Before the Matadors won the third game, they were hitting a terrible -.019 and had an overwhelming advantage in attack errors (18-4).
The bad play prompted Campbell to make several changes that included replacing an ineffective Cory Wagner and senior Tanner Nua, who missed the rest of the match due to illness.
“Well we made some adjustments. The first adjustment was we put Dillon Auxier in, outside hitter, and he stabilized the passing a little bit and brought a nice fire to the team,” Campbell said. “In game three, we put in John Baker and (he) really played well, had very good energy out there. So we put in those guys and they really performed well.”
Long Beach State (6-4, 5-2 MPSF) was in command from the starting serve and went on to hit a whopping .789 with no errors and a 100 percent side-out rate. The second game was the same story as the 49ers capitalized on Matador errors.
Long Beach outside hitter Jim Baughman hit .444 and had 20 kills to lead all hitters, and freshman Taylor Crabb had 13 kills, but no other 49er had more than eight kills.
Faulkner, who had a team-high 10 kills and five blocks, attributed the plan set out during the week as the reason for the success.
“We tried a few different things and what really worked is what we did now,” Faulkner said. “We decided not to change it after getting a few wins and we just started playing hard.”
Even with the improbable and much-needed five-set win, the Matadors are focused on the next game and nowhere after that.
“I’m just going to be playing game by game, I mean obviously every match is different, but just one game at a time and we’ll be okay,” Stork said.