The 2006 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament run of the Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team ended almost as quickly as it began, and once again, it was the Pepperdine Waves who slammed the door shut.
For the third year in a row, and fourth time in five years, the Waves crushed the postseason aspirations of the Matadors, as they delivered a humbling three-game sweep of CSUN by scores of 30-24, 30-25 and 30-28.
“We didn’t play very well,” said head coach Jeff Campbell. “I thought Pepperdine played as well I’ve seen them play all year.”
In game one, Pepperdine jumped to an 8-4 advantage to force a quick Matador timeout. CSUN came out of that timeout with renewed energy, as consecutive kills by senior Brian Waite and a freshman Eric Vance kill brought CSUN to within one.
The Waves did not budge and quickly responded with six of the next eight to lead 13-10.
CSUN, however, closed the deficit to 13-12 and stayed within one at 16-15 until a kill by John Parfitt and an ace serve by Tanner Sutherland gave Pepperdine an 18-15 advantage.
Vance broke that short run with a kill, but two Matador attack errors gave Pepperdine a 20-16 lead. Following a brief five-point trade-off, Pepperdine scored the next four points to lead 26-19 on their way to the 30-24 win.
The second game saw the Matadors play from behind the entire game.
CSUN closed the deficit to 11-9 on a senior Matt Bellante kill until Pepperdine got hot.
A Parfitt kill and a CSUN attack error gave the Waves a 14-9 lead.
The Waves, however, were just getting started as they stretched their advantage to 24-14.
CSUN finally started threatening when junior Dan Rhodes pinned Sutherland for a kill, and teamed with Bellante to deny Parfitt on an attack and found an opening to the left side for another Matador point, which cut Pepperdine’s lead to 24-17 and forced Waves head coach Marv Dunphy to take his first timeout of the match.
The Waves, however, didn’t give any ground and put themselves within game point at 29-22.
CSUN refused to go down with a fight, taking advantage of two Pepperdine attack errors, which were quickly followed by a Waite kill to bring the Matadors to within four.
Ultimately, the deficit was too much to overcome, as Pepperdine eventually came out with the 30-25 win.
CSUN would need to repeat history if they hoped to upset Pepperdine. On Feb. 18, Pepperdine won the first two games at Firestone Fieldhouse, but the Matadors stormed back to win the next two games before eventually coming up short in five games.
In game three, CSUN started out in front and led 7-6 until a Tom Hulse kill and a Waves block gave Pepperdine the lead.
The Waves held on to their lead for a brief stretch until sophomore Travis Bluemling teamed with Bellante to deny a Pepperdine attack.
Bellante then went solo on an attack and a Vance kill gave CSUN a 15-13 advantage, forcing a Pepperdine timeout. Rhodes and Bellante then denied Parfitt on an attack, but Pepperdine came back as Paul Carroll went cross-court for a kill and a Bellante attack went wide, closing the Matador lead to 16-15.
CSUN got a break when Pepperdine was called for a lift violation, but Carroll smashed consecutive kills to tie the game at 17. Junior James Lischer gave CSUN the lead back, then after Carroll tied the game again.
The Matadors took advantage of a Carroll hitting error and Vance and Lischer denied Parfitt on an attack to stretch its advantage to 20-18.
CSUN kept its advantage at two until a Sutherland attack error and a Rhodes kill off a block gave the Matadors a 24-21 lead. Pepperdine though never let the Matadors get any further and eventually caught the Matadors at 27 when Hulse and Jonathan Winder teamed to deny Waite on an attack, forcing a CSUN timeout.
Rhodes gave the Matadors the lead back, but it was the last lead for CSUN, as a Hein kill and another Matador attack error put Pepperdine within a point of victory. Not even a CSUN timeout could prevent the inevitable, as Hein and Winder teamed to deny a Matador attack and put an end to CSUN’s season.
“We played well enough to hang in there,” senior Cary Hanson said. “But they (Pepperdine) played better.”
Rhodes led the Matador effort with 19 kills while Vance had 12. Waite had nine kills and three blocks and Bluemling had 48 assists. Carroll led the Waves with 17 kills while Parfitt had 11.
Pepperdine moves onto the semifinals at UC Irvine, which will start April 27 while CSUN ends its season at 18-11. Still Campbell states he’s happy with the way the season went.
“I think it was a great year,” Campbell said. “It was really an over achieving bunch that got 18 wins, so I think it was a great year in that sense.”
For seniors Bellante, Hanson and Waite, the loss meant their final games as members of the Matador men’s volleyball team.
“I’ll remember the players the most,” Bellante said. “I developed a lot of friends, they supported me, encouraged me and they were there for me.”
“Just the experience with all the guys,” said Hanson, who red-shirted his first year in 2002. “Its been a good five years for me, it was fun.”
Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com.