Men’s Volleyball: CSUN in rematch against No. 9 UCLA

Jay Guillory

POINT AND KILL: Matador middle blocker Greg Faulkner (17) attempts an attack against Long Beach State on Feb. 11 at the Matadome. Sundial File Photo.

This season, the Matadors have struggled defending the Matadome.

The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team has won just one game in their last five at home this season.

Coach Jeff Campbell said it has been tough for his team this season, citing inexperience as the reason for the struggles.

“We are an inexperienced team. We lost five seniors last year and now we have a lot of young players trying to adjust to playing at the college level,” Campbell said. “We play in the best league in the nation and it makes it difficult to win, but we have to come together and build on things to become a better team.”

Although CSUN has struggled a great deal this season, the Matadors are still within reach of getting into the conference tournament.

Northridge has a record of 3-8 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and a 4-12 overall record as they face No. 9 UCLA at the Matadome tonight. The Bruins have already beaten the Matadors this season, 3-1.

On that match, the Bruins were led by a trio of players that included hitter Weston Dunlap, who is currently ranked second in the MPSF with a .474 hitting percentage, while outside hitter Jeremy Casebeer hammered 10 kills and seven digs. Quick hitter Thomas Amberg had 10 kills as well and added five block assists in the win over the Matadors. The Bruins caused defensive problems for the Matadors, outhitting them .295 to .195 and also causing CSUN to commit 20 service errors.

The Bruins are coming off a win against Pacific, putting UCLA one game over the Matadors with a 4-8 record in MPSF play.

UCLA, which will embark on a four-match homestand following Wednesday’s game, is led by Dunlap. The 6-foot-9 inch redshirt junior is making important use of his playing team, leading the team in kills with 137 and in hitting percentage (.474).

With every game being important to the Matadors for the final push as the season winds down, they are focused on getting better as a team coming into the game against UCLA.

“At this point of the season, we are trying to get better with every game. UCLA has a great coaching staff and very talented players, we need to be ready to compete,” Campbell said.

This year, CSUN ranks last in MPSF in hitting percentage. The team’s hitting percentage has become an issue to why the team can’t capitalize in crucial moments during the game, and again it is a question of experience.

“The lack of experience we have on our team this year has hurt us, because we have five new guys starting,” Campbell said.

The Matadors have seen growth in their young team this year with the play of two freshmen Brandon Lebrock and Greg Faulkner. Lebrock is second on the team in points with 132.5 while Faulkner leads the team in blocks with 0.90 blocks a game. The emergence of these two freshmen has given the team a great advantage going into next season as well as finishing hard for a shot at the conference tournament.

After playing the Bruins on Jan. 19 on the road, the Matadors went on an embarrassing five-match losing streak where they were unable to capture a game. The team lost all five of those matches 3-0 before beating Long Beach State on Feb. 11 at home.

Northridge had won two of three matches before losing its previous two against USC and Pepperdine.