Special To The Daily Sundial
The 14th ranked Pacific Tigers put up a fight against fifth ranked Cal State Northridge, but the Matadors showed they were up to the challenge, as they defeated the Tigers 3-1 by scores of 33-35, 30-17, 30-27, and 30-23 at the Matadome, Jan. 28.
Junior Dan Rhodes led CSUN with 22 kills while senior Brian Waite contributed 12 kills, several of which nearly dented the floor. Sophomore Travis Bluemling lead the team with 55 assists and junior Sebastian Pedraza had a team-high 11 digs.
Pacific was led by Pekka Seppanen’s 20 kills and 17 digs while Andreas Baboulidis contributed with 19 kills and Brian Adamson had 18 kills. Garrett Morales led the Tigers with 68 assists.
“I feel good about this win,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “I think it’s (against) a good team.”
Both teams came out strong for the first game, with CSUN holding an early 9-7 lead. The Matadors took control as a Tigers serve went wide and Rhodes took advantage by smashing two kills, gaving CSUN a 12-7 lead.
The two teams traded the next six points until the Matadors scored two points in a row to build their lead to seven.
With CSUN leading 18-11, Pacific scored four points in a row, with the last one coming on a Adamson kill. The Tigers closed the deficit to two before CSUN took advantage of an errant serve with kills by Rhodes and junior James Lischer that gave the Matadors a 22-17 lead.
With the Matador lead at five, the Tigers scored three points in a row to force a CSUN timeout, which did not slow down Pacific. A Matador net violation, a kill by Baboulidis and blocks by Baboulidis and Blake Gentry gave Pacific a 29-28 lead and needing one point away from winning the game.
Rhodes, however, forced sudden death and when a Pacific kill attempt went long, CSUN was within a point of winning the game one.
Pacific, however, hung tough, and with the score tied at 33, Seppanen nailed a kill, blocked a Rhodes attempt, giving the Tigers the win.
“We were a little shaky in the first game,” Campbell said. “But I think that’s more of Pacific playing well and affecting our players.”
In game two, CSUN came out firing, scoring the first four points and jumping out to an early 11-4 lead. Unlike the first game, the Matadors held onto the lead and built on it, hitting .696 en route to a 30-17 win and evening the match at one win apiece.
“The mindset of the second game was to go out and play the way we could,” Rhodes said. “If we played the way we can, they (Pacific) couldn’t stay with us.”
In the third game, Pacific jumped out to an early advantage and led 16-15 until senior Matt Bellante hammered two kills to give CSUN a 17-16 lead, its first lead of the game.
Pacific refused to wilt, and took a 21-20 lead on an Adamson kill. Rhodes answered with a kill and with a Pacific net violation, the Matados regained the lead at 22-21.
Despite Pacific’s efforts, CSUN did not relinquish the lead and won the third set 30-27.
The fourth set began with the Matadors holding the early advantage. While leading 16-15, CSUN took over. A net serve by Garrett Morales, and kills by Bellante and freshman Eric Vance gave CSUN a 19-15 lead. Following a Baboulidis kill, the Matadors scored five points in a row to build their lead to eight.
Pacific tried to fight back but CSUN was too much to handle. Vance slammed home the final point of the night to provide CSUN with a 30-23 win. With the win, the Matadors won the match.
CSUN improved its record to 6-3, 2-2 in MPSF play. The Matadors next game will be its annual game against the alumni on Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Matadome.
Ivan Yeao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.