Men’s Volleyball: CSUN to face Hawaii in back-to-back games

Jay Guillory

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The CSUN men’s volleyball team travels to Hawaii this week for a double-header against the Warriors (12-11, 10-8 MPSF) for a conference match. CSUN is coming off a three straight match losses and looks to get back on track.

“We all are just playing for pride ride right now. We as a team are still going to try and get as many wins as possible to finish out the season. I think we are out of the playoffs, but we definitely are playing to get better for next year. None of us like losing and we want to make a statement that next year we will be a team that other teams need to worry about,” freshman outside hitter Brandon Lebrock said.

The Warriors recently faced BYU (16-7, 10-6 MPSF) in a pivotal two-match series where Hawaii was riding a six-match winning streak. However, the Warriors were left with consecutive losses and its eighth straight defeat to the Cougars in Provo, Utah.

BYU is for third place and Hawaii is sixth place in the conference standings with less than one month left in the regular season. The Warriors, which dropped one spot to No. 9 in this week’s AVCA Top-15 rankings, began their road trip with a two-match sweep of then-No. 5 Long Beach State. BYU, which moved up one spot to second, split two matches when it faced Cal State Northridge earlier this month.

The Cougars were swept in the first of two matches when they played against CSUN despite 17 kills apiece by Robb Stowell and Taylor Sander. The following night, BYU’s big blockers held the Matadors to .115 hitting average while racking up 14.5 blocks in three sets. The Cougars hit an impressive .410 while middle blocker Futi Tavana had 11 kills on .625 hitting and six blocks.

Hawaii’s six-match win streak was its longest since 2007 before going down against BYU.

During the streak, the Warriors averaged 3.25 blocks per game with four players at or near 1.00 per set (Shane Welch at 1.75, Jarrod Lofy at 1.05, Steven Hunt at 1.00 and Jonas Umlauft at 0.95).

The Warriors also had 22 service aces compared to 10 of their opponents. Umlauft averaged 5.80 kills per set during the streak while Walker had 4.05, both above their season averages.

In the second loss against the Cougars, Umlauft had match-high 28 kills that put him above the 1,000 career kills plateau. He becomes only the third player in school history to reach 1,000 kills in just the second season at UH.

Senior setter Nejc Zemljak leads the Warrior offense in their best output since 2006 when that team hit .342. This season, Hawaii is hitting .318, which ranks fifth in the MPSF. The senior is averaging 10.99 assists per game, which ranks fifth in the conference, while also leading the team in digs at 2.03 per set. Zemljak, a four-year player, ranks fifth all-time in school history with 3,169 career assists.

Hawaii holds a 246-137 (.642) all-time record in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation since 1993. UH posted one perfect season of 19-0 during the 1996 campaign and made 14-straight MPSF playoffs until that streak was snapped in 2008.

CSUN has had a tough season thus far adjusting to its young team entering their first season together. Although the team has struggled significantly in many different other areas they still feel they have gotten better as a team.

“We have definitely made large improvement since the year began. All the new players have made large improvements. Everyone has even the older guys have gotten better,” setter Matt Stork said.