The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team, fresh off wins over No. 7 UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego, looks to keep the momentum going as it wraps up their five-match road trip at the Pyramid against the fifth-ranked Long Beach State 49ers March 24 at 7:30 p.m.
The Matadors increased their winning streak to three games with wins over Santa Barbara at Robertson Gym March 15 and a sweep of UC San Diego at RIMAC Arena March 15.
Against the Gauchos, senior middle blocker Brian Waite led the way for the Matadors, as he smashed 17 kills and committed only two errors. Junior opposite Dan Rhodes had 14 kills, senior middle blocker Matt Bellante had 11 kills, freshman outside hitter Eric Vance had 10 while sophomore setter Travis Bluemling had 54 assists as the Matadors took out the Gauchos 30-28, 30-28, 21-30 and 30-23. Evan Patak led the Gaucho effort with 25 kills.
“We played very well,” said head coach Jeff Campbell. “We really put it together and played a good team on the road and we beat them.”
Two days later, CSUN made the long journey to La Jolla for a matchup with last-place UC San Diego, which was looking for its first conference win. UCSD fought hard, but the Matadors didn’t let up, sweeping the Tritons by scores of 30-23, 30-27, 30-27.
CSUN was paced by the trio of Rhodes, Vance and Waite. Rhodes has a team-high 18 kills, Waite had 17, Vance had 16 while Bluemling had 50 assists. Chris Sayers led the Triton effort with 18 kills and Brendan Bowe had 10.
“It was tough to play a team like that because they’re the underdog,” Campbell said. “Although I know they’re a good team, sometimes players tend to look past that and luckily we were able to beat them and not look past them.”
CSUN improved its record to 14-8, 9-7 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play. Waite was named MPSF player of the week for his efforts against the Gauchos and Tritons.
CSUN now braces for a key showdown with the 49ers. Long Beach State is currently fifth in the conference with a record of 17-6, 10-5. The 49ers are led by Robert Tarr, who is averaging a team-high 5.12 kills a game and Duncan Budinger, who is second with a 3.69 kills per game average. Tyler Hildebrand leads the team in assists with a 13.9 average.
CSUN won its last meeting against the 49ers at the Matadome in five games March 3 behind Vance’s 23 kills, Rhodes’ 16 and Waite’s 11. CSUN held off the 49ers in the first two games, winning by scores of 32-30 and 30-28. The 49ers came to life in the next two games, winning decisively by scores of 30-21 and 30-17.
CSUN, however, was not to be denied, winning the fifth game 15-12 behind Waite’s six kills. Bluemling also posted 53 assists. Budinger led the 49er effort with 28 kills. CSUN won despite not having the services of Cary Hanson and Aaron Schneider, who both missed the game with the flu.
“I think we’re very competitive with them,” Campbell said regarding Long Beach. “If we come ready with our A-game, we’re capable of beating anybody.”
Ivan Yeo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.