The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN climbs the pyramid by beating Long Beach in five

Playing from behind is nothing new to the No. 6-ranked Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team. The Matadors rallied from two games down to force a deciding fifth game three times this season and are 1-2 in those situations.

The March 24 game against the No. 5-ranked Long Beach State 49ers was no different, as the Matadors once again overcame a two-game deficit to upset the 49ers by scores of 23-30, 20-30, 30-24, 34-32 and 15-12 at the Pyramid.

“It took us a few games to figure them out,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “I thought they played really well in the first two games.”

CSUN was once again paced by junior opposite Dan Rhodes, who smashed a team-high 21 kills, senior Brian Waite followed suit with 18 kills and senior Cary Hanson was not far behind with 12 kills. Sophomore Travis Bluemling had 55 assists and Hanson and junior Sebastian Pedraza each had 11 digs. CSUN also weathered the efforts of Long Beach’s Duncan Budinger and Robert Tarr, as Budinger smashed a game-high 28 kills while Tarr had 21.

Long Beach scored the first four points to start the first game, but the Matadors climbed back by cutting the deficit to 6-5. CSUN then tied the game at 10 on freshman Eric Vance’s kill. Long Beach, however, scored seven of the next nine points to lead 17-12. The Matadors were never able to recover, as the 49ers led by as many as seven on their way to the first-game win.

Long Beach again jumped out to the early lead in game by two. But CSUN kept pace and took its first lead of the match at 9-8 when a Kevin Cape kill attempt went long. Tarr tied the game.

Then senior Matt Bellante gave CSUN the lead back at 10-9, but it was the last time in the game that CSUN held the lead, as Long Beach scored four in a row to take a 13-10 lead and force a Matador timeout.

Rhodes stopped the bleeding with a kill, then after a Duncan Budinger kill, Long Beach went long on the ensuing serve and sophomore Isaac Kneubuhl went off a 49er block to cut the deficit to 14-13. But that was the closest CSUN got, as Long Beach answered with four in a row to lead 18-13 and went on to the 10-point win.

In the third game, however, the tide finally turned CSUN’s way. Long Beach led 4-2 until CSUN scored four in a row to take a 6-4 lead. Long Beach eventually came back, and the rest of the match was close. Though the Matadors never trailed in the game, they led by no more than two points as they struggled to shake off a feisty Long Beach squad.

With the game tied at 19, Rhodes got CSUN going with two kills. Hanson followed suit to give CSUN a 22-19 lead and force a rare 49er timeout. CSUN stayed hot as Rhodes got another kill and Long Beach went long on its attack, stretching the lead to 24-19 and forced another 49er timeout. CSUN’s five-point spurt was all the Matadors needed as they held on to win by six.

The fourth game was again close. Long Beach held the early advantage, leading 12-9 until CSUN got back-to-back kills from Kneubuhl and Hanson to tie the game.

CSUN thought it had taken the lead when Vance found an open spot in the back for a kill, but was instead taken away in favor of a two-hit violation during an earlier set. Lischer tied the game at 13.

After Paul Lotman gave Long Beach the lead back, Hanson went cross-court for a kill, then teamed with Waite on a block and got another kill to give CSUN a 16-14 lead.

The Matadors were able to maintain their lead throughout, leading 27-23 until Long Beach slowly chipped away at the lead and finally caught CSUN at 28.

The game eventually went into sudden death, and following a Rhodes kill, Budinger answered with a kill of his own and a 49er service ace put Long Beach within a point of victory. But Campbell called for time, and Rhodes responded by going off the Long Beach block to keep CSUN alive.

Tarr followed suit to give the advantage back to Long Beach, but Hanson tied the game, then gave CSUN the lead and Waite nearly put a dent in the Pyramid floor to give CSUN the dramatic 34-32 win and force a fifth game.

CSUN jumped out to a 4-2 lead to begin the fifth game though Long Beach came back to tie at four. The script followed suit throughout the game as CSUN led by as many as two and Long Beach came back to tie the game on four occasions. Then with the game tied at 10, Tarr went long on the serve to give CSUN the lead.

Hildebrand followed suit and another Long Beach attack went into the net, giving CSUN a 13-10 lead. Long Beach got a point off a CSUN attack error, but went wide on the serve, putting CSUN within a point of the win. Not even a Budinger kill could prevent the inevitable, as Waite slammed the door shut on another CSUN victory.

“I wish we didn’t do that,” Bluemling said about going into overtime. “We always come out stronger in the second half of the game, and it’s a sweeter win.”

CSUN has now won four in a row and improved to 15-8, 10-7 in Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation play, while Long Beach slips to 17-7, 10-6 in MPSF play. CSUN heads back to the Matadome for its last five games of the regular season, starting March 31 against UC Santa Barbara.

“We’re looking forward to making a run into the playoffs right now and getting some good seeding for us in the playoffs,” Waite said.

Ivan Yeo can be reached at

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