The No. 4 ranked Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team did a role reversal against No. 7 ranked UC Santa Barbara March 31 at the Matadome, but the end result was still the same, much to the Matadors’ liking.
CSUN won the first two games by scores of 30-20 and 30-24, but then held on for dear life as the Gauchos took the next two 22-30 and 27-30. CSUN, however, did not break, as it held on to win the fifth game 15-12 and keep its winning streak alive at five games
“We let down a little bit and they (Santa Barbara) started to get hot,” said freshman outside hitter Eric Vance. “We just stayed in the game, we just believed.”
CSUN (16-8, 11-7) was paced by its outstanding junior opposite Dan Rhodes, who had 35 kills, including 23 in the first two games.
Vance and sophomore Issac Kneubuhl had 11 kills apiece and junior middle blocker James Lischer came off the bench with 10. Junior Libero Sebastian Pedraza had 38 digs and sophomore Travis Bluemling had 68 assists. Evan Patak led the Gaucho effort with 31 kills, Theo Brunner had 14 and Aaron Richman had 10.
UCSB scored the first three points of the first match, but CSUN answered with a 4-0 run to take the lead. From there on, CSUN was able to maintain its lead, though the Gauchos never let them out their sights. The Matadors held a 21-18 lead until UCSB Bryan Berman went wide on an attack, giving the advantage to the Matadors.
Rhodes then took over, as he pinned the Gauchos’ Aaron Richman for a kill, then went off the Santa Barbara blockers for two more kills to give CSUN a 25-18 lead, forcing a Gaucho timeout. That four-point spurt was all the Matadors needed, as they went on to the first-game win.
The second game started out much like the first game, a nip-n-tuck battle with CSUN out in front and the Gauchos staying close behind. The Matadors never led by more than four points throughout the game, but finally pushed its advantage to 25-20 on a Rhodes kill. CSUN scored more than two consecutive points only once in the second game, but it was just enough as the Matadors held off the Gauchos 30-24. CSUN was paced by Rhodes, who had 11 kills in the first game and 12 more in the second.
In the second game, CSUN held an 8-7 lead until UCSB scored three in a row to take a 10-8 lead , forcing a rare Matador timeout. The Gauchos didn’t cool down, as a CSUN net violation and two Gaucho service aces gave Santa Barbara a 13-8 lead. The Matadors were never able to recover, as the Gauchos fed off its six-point spurt and won game three, forcing the fans to stay a while longer.
UCSB looked to carry the momentum into game four. CSUN took its only lead of the game at 9-8 when a Patak attack went long, but Patak made up for the error with a kill and Michael Fisher followed suit, giving the Gauchos a 10-9 lead. CSUN stayed close from there on out, but could never overtake the Gauchos, as UCSB forced a decisive fifth game with a 30-27 win.
Patak started out the fifth game with a kill and an ace serve to give UCSB a 2-0 lead until the Matadors finally came alive.
Following a Gaucho attack error, Kneubuhl and junior James Lischer teamed to deny Patak on an attack, then Kneubuhl and Rhodes went off the UCSB blocks for kills to give CSUN a 4-2 lead. CSUN then maintained its lead throughout, building it to 11-8 when Lischer and Rhodes denied Patak on another attack.
Patak got one through on the next set, but the Gauchos gave two more points to the Matadors on attack errors and Lischer nearly put a hole in the Matadome floor to give CSUN game point.
UCSB made one last charge, scoring three in a row before Rhodes put an end to any thoughts of a miracle Gaucho comeback win.
When asked why his team always ends up going five games, Campbell replied “I have no idea, that’s who we are and we’ll figure it out.”
CSUN continues its five-match homestand against the defending National Champion Pepperdine Waves on April 5. The Waves took the first meeting back on Feb. 18, winning in five games despite the spectacular effort of Rhodes, who had 41 kills at Firestone Field house. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.
Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com.