Men’s volleyball comes up short against the champs

Ivan Yeo

The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team came back from a two game to none deficit against the defending national champion Pepperdine Waves, but were unable to pull off another comeback win on the road. The Waves held on to win 30-24, 30-26, 35-37, 26-30 and 15-13 in five sets.

Pepperdine’s win overshadowed the spectacular effort of Matador junior opposite Dan Rhodes, who had a career-high 41 kills and 11 digs. Senior Cary Hanson also had a double-double with 10 kills and 13 digs. Senior Matt Bellante also had 10 kills, sophomore Issac Kneubhul had 13 digs and sophomore Travis Bluemling had 70 assists.

The Waves also had a balanced attack, as John Parfitt had 27 kills and Paul Carroll had 21 kills and 10 assists. Andy Hein had 14 and Jon Grobe had 10 kills, J.D. Schleppenbach had 12 digs, and Jonathan Winder had 7-0 assists as Pepperdine avoided the same fate that befuddled UCLA a week earlier, when CSUN came back from two games down to beat the Bruins.

“We never gave up, even when we were down,” said head coach Jeff Campbell. “We had chances too win in game five as well.”

In game one, Pepperdine jumped out to an early 5-2 lead. CSUN cut the lead to 9-8 until the Waves scored three in a row and forced a Matador timeout. Pepperdine continued to maintain its lead, which peaked at 23-16 until CSUN scored two quick points off a net violation and a Rhodes kill to force a Pepperdine timeout.

The Matadors continued to slowly chip away at the Waves’ lead, as Rhodes smashed a kill of Jon Grobe, cutting the deficit to 27-23 and forcing another Pepperdine timeout. The deficit, however, was too big to overcome as Pepperdine scored three of the last four points to take the first game.

Game two resembled the first game, though CSUN was able to stay closer. Pepperdine 18-10 at one point until CSUN caught fire. Brian Waite started the rally with two kills and then teamed with Bluemling on a block to force a Waves timeout.

CSUN continued to roll, as Hanson smashed a kill off a Pepperdine block. Jonathan Winder went long on a kill attempt, Kneubhul nailed a cross-court kill and Hanson got another kill to cut the deficit to 18-17.

Pepperdine, however, responded with six-in-a-row between a CSUN timeout. But the Matadors responded with four in a row to force another Pepperdine timeout.

The Waves then scored three more points, which proved to be the cushion Pepperdine needed as they held on to win the second game 30-26.

Unlike the first two games, game three was close all the way, as Pepperdine and CSUN traded points and scoring streaks throughout. CSUN finally took its first lead of the match at 20-19, but Pepperdine quickly swung the momentum back their way, as they scored three of the next four points to take a 22-21 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout.

Hanson single-handedly gave CSUN the lead back with a kill to the middle and caught Pepperdine off-guard with a tip.

Both teams traded the next four points until Pepperdine got kills from Hulse and Jon Parfitt to take a 26-25 lead. CSUN and Pepperdine again traded points until a Pepperdine lift violation and a Rhodes kill gave CSUN a 28-27 lead. Kneubhul went long on the ensuing serve, but Rhodes put CSUN within a point of winning the third game.

Pepperdine’s Andy Hein, however, forced sudden death and a CSUN net violation put Pepperdine in control, but Rhodes was able to keep CSUN alive. The Waves had five more chances to close out the Matadors, but CSUN stayed right with them.

Then after a Pepperdine net violation tied the game at 35, Rhodes gave CSUN the lead with a kill and Kneubhul smashed a kill off a Pepperdine block to give CSUN a dramatic 37-35 win.

The fourth game saw a role-reversal from the first two games, as CSUN jumped out to the lead and maintained it throughout. CSUN’s lead peaked at 23-17, forcing a Pepperdine timeout.

The Waves responded with a 5-2 run to cut the lead to 25-22, forcing a CSUN timeout. Pepperdine continued to push further, cutting the lead to 26-25, but CSUN eventually held on for a 30-26 win, forcing the fifth and deciding game.

The Waves, however, rediscovered its form, as they jumped out to a 6-3 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. The Matadors trailed 8-4 when a James Lischer kill, an attack error on Grobe and a Rhodes ace cut the deficit to 8-7, forcing a Pepperdine timeout.

Hein answered with a kill, Lischer went out of bounds on an attack and Grobe won a net battle, giving Pepperdine an 11-7 lead and forcing CSUN to huddle once again.

CSUN quickly answered Pepperdine’s call, scoring four of the next five to close to within one, but Pepperdine was not to be denied, as Grobe earned two kills sandwiched between a Hanson attack to put Pepperdine within a point of victory.

Rhodes kept CSUN alive with a kill off a block but Hein shut the door when he found an open spot to the right of CSUN’s court to seal the win.

“(Pepperdine) is a good team,” Rhodes said. “It shows that we can compete, even with the best of them.”

Two days earlier, CSUN swept No. 12 USC by scores of 30-25, 30-19 and 30-20. Rhodes had 20 kills and Hanson had nine kills while hitting .615.

CSUN heads back to the Matadome for two games against Hawaii on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

Ivan Yeo can be reached at ivan.yeo.80@csun.edu