Special to the Daily Sundial
Coming into the match at UC Irvine on Feb. 8th, with a four game winning streak, the fifth-ranked Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team ended its winning streak to the No. 3 UCI Anteaters.
With the win, UCI improved its record to 9-3 and 4-2 in conference. With the loss, the Matadors drop to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in league play.
“When you are on the road, it seems like all the little things go wrong,” said head coach Jeff Campbell. “Our serving, passing and hitting were all a little off.”
In game one, UCI held a 17-9 lead on an ace by junior middle-blocker David Smith. The Matadors struggled the whole game to gain momentum and did not get any closer than six points in the 30-21 loss.
Game two started like game one. The Anteaters led 14-9, but the Matadors went on a 6-3 run to cut the UCI lead to 17-15. UCI came back with an 8-5 run, which was highlighted by an Anteater solo block from about a foot off the net to take a 25-20 lead. UCI would go on to take game two, 30-23.
Unlike the first two games, game three was close with the teams tied 20-20 at one point. UCI’s Senior outside-hitter Paul Spittle, scored and with two Matador errors, the Anteaters took a 23-20 lead.
With UCI holding a two-point lead at 27-25, Junior outside-hitter Jayson Jablonsky got a kill and extended the Anteater lead to three. Then a Matador attack error put the Anteaters a point away from winning the game and the match. UCI, however, committed a service error, giving the Matadors one last shot. The Matadors, however could not do anything and UCI junior middle-blocker David Smith ended the match with a kill.
“We settled down a little in the third game,” Campbell said. “Our libero (Sebastian Pedraza) settled us down and helped out a lot.”
Freshman outside hitter Eric Vance led the Matador attack with 13 kills. CSUN, however, struggled on offense, hitting only .100 in game one, .170 in game two and improved to .270 in game three. Overall, the Matadors hit .194 (44-23-108) for the match.
“We used a different line-up in each of the three games, which could have affected our play,” Campbell said. “Our passing was affected and when our passing is affected, it relates to the poor hitting.”
Brian Waite added eight kills and three blocks and sophomore outside-hitter Isaac Kneubuhl chipped in seven kills and a team-high eight digs. Junior Dan Rhodes, CSUN’s leading hitter, was held to three kills and a -.250 hitting percentage in the series.
For UCI, junior Matt Webber led the team with 17 kills, followed by Jablonsky, who added 12. Freshman libero Brent Asuka added nine digs, while junior Brian Thornton tallied 40 assists, seven digs and five blocks. The Anteaters out-blocked the Matadors by a sizable 13 to 4.5 and had 33 team digs to 27 for CSUN.
The Matadors maintained their fifth-overall rank on the NCAA Division I poll. UCI preserved their slot as No. 3 in the rankings.
The Matadors next home match will be against the No. 6 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Feb. 24.
“A loss can refocus a team,” Campbell said. “I can promise that we will be more focused from here on.”
Charles Keeranan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org