Men’s volleyball: Up for the challenge: Matadors face No. 2 UCI


CSUN opposite Julius Höefer, right, looks on during a Friday game against Harvard. The Matadors host No. 2 UC Irvine tonight. Photo Credit: Andres Aguila / Senior Photographer

Jonathan Andrade

CSUN opposite Julius Höefer, right, looks on during a Friday game against Harvard. The Matadors host No. 2 UC Irvine tonight. Photo Credit: Andres Aguila / Senior Photographer

CSUN had a rough stretch of three matches in four nights, but three days of rest should prove helpful heading into a tough home test against No. 2 UC Irvine tonight.

These two have met once before this season in conference play, resulting in an Anteaters’ straight-set win over Northridge in Irvine on Feb. 22. This time, with both teams playing at high levels as of late, they will battle at the Matadome.

“I think in general we’ve had more confidence since (we won at) San Diego,” said freshman opposite Julius Höefer. “I’m looking forward to these next games.”

Although the Matadors (8-11, 4-8 MPSF) are coming off a 3-1 loss to Harvard at the Matadome Saturday, they have enjoyed the friendly confines of Northridge and won four of their last six matches, with their only other loss coming at the hands of No. 1 UCLA.

Fatigue looked to play an important role in the loss to Harvard as the hitting numbers drastically dropped off from the .452 and .462 hitting percentages CSUN had against Ball State last Wednesday and Loyola on Friday respectively. CSUN hit a horrid .220 and allowed Harvard to swing for a .364 average while senior outside hitter Matt Stork had an off night.

“It’s going to depend on how hard we go in practice if we’re going to be rested or not,” CSUN junior middle blocker Drew Staker said. “We have tough practices. That’s not rest, so we need to have a light practice before the game because that will be very beneficial to our bodies and how we perform.”

Stork has played well for most of the season but has had a few off nights like the one against Harvard in which he hit  -.188 in two sets before being pulled by head coach Jeff Campbell.

Stork leads all Matadors with 178 kills, but has committed 82 errors and is hitting .195 this season. The game against UC Irvine is special to Stork because his brother, Daniel, is a sophomore setter for the Anteaters.

Höefer had his best night since returning from his ankle injury against the Crimson, tallying 12 kills on a .292 percentage and adding eight digs, but committed four crucial service errors.

“I feel like I’m getting back to 100 percent,” Höefer said. “I just had to get back in shape and now I have to get used to a new setter. I just hope I get to start on Wednesday.”

Höefer was leading CSUN in kills for most of the season but has since fallen second to Stork. Hoefe has 165 kills.

UC Irvine (16-3, 12-3) is coming off a 3-2 win over UCLA in its last match and is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Anteaters are headed by junior outside hitter Kevin Tillie and his 149 kills.

Tillie also owns a .448 hitting percentage, which has him in the top ten in the conference along with teammate middle blocker Scott Kevorken.

Against UCI in the last match, CSUN hit .244 without Hoefer in the lineup. Staker led Northridge with eight kills on 14 swings.

“I just have to go into this game hoping I get some good sets,” Staker said. “Hopefully the setter can find me again.”

The Matadors had four players with six-plus kills against the Anteaters while sophomore outside hitter Brandon Lebrock and junior opposite John baker combined for 14 kills in place of the injured Höefer.

“The only chance we have is if they come in thinking we’re not a good team,” Höefer said. “We have to surprise them, play really hard and serve well.”