Final tuneup

Victor Corona

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The No. 3 Matadors men’s volleybal team has hit a bump in their season, losing three of their last six matches as they head into the final game of the regular season Friday against No.13 UC Santa Barbara.

The Matadors (22-6, 15-6 MPSF) have been able to remain near the top of the national rankings despite their recent struggles. Senior All-American Eric Vance wants the team to get back to playing Matador ball against the Gauchos at the Thunderdome.

‘We need to start playing better as team,’ Vance said. ‘We need to get that same mentality and attitude we had at the beginning of the season, because it’s not there right now.’

The Matadors’ inability to serve and pass has been the cause of the problem lately. Last weekend against Long Beach State, the Matadors were out-hit percentage-wise for a first time this season (.227 to .210).

Adding fuel to the fire has been the fact that, in three of the past six matches, CSUN dug itself into two-set holes and was not able to crawl out of them, losing to No. 4 Stanford, No. 2 Pepperdine and the 49ers.

‘We need to work on being more consistent,’ said junior opposite hitter Theo Edwards, who has been coming off the bench more frequently as of late. ‘We’re getting to that part of the season were everyone is a little tired. You’re beat up. It’s been a long season, but we got to fight and learn how to progress and get better.’

The Gauchos (8-18, 4-17 MPSF) are seemingly just what the doctor ordered as the Matadors try to snap out of their funk. Losers of five matches in a row, UCSB has also dropped its last five matchups against CSUN, including two this season already. The first was a 3-1 win in the Elephant Bar Invitational at Santa Barbara. The second was a 3-0 sweep at the Matadome on Jan. 23.

The Gauchos are led by sophomore outside hitter Jeff Menzel and junior opposite hitter Jake Roesner. Menzel ranks fourth in kills in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference, averaging 5.30 per set.’ Roesner is second on the team, averaging 2.71 a frame.

‘We got to get a little bit of momentum and get a starting lineup out there that’s going to be working hard and propelled that team in to the playoffs,’ Head Coach Jeff Campbell said.

Friday’s match will be the last for Vance as far as the regular season goes. The six-foot-four senior from Camarillo has enjoyed a great career at CSUN, ranking high in most of the Matadors’ all-time statistical records. Going into the match against the Gauchos, Vance needs six service aces to surpass former Matador Eckhard Walter all-time record of 183. Vance also ranks third in kill attempts (3,468), fifth in kills (1,596) and sixth in digs (663).

Vance, the lone senior on the team, has put up remarkable numbers even in defeat. In a five-set home loss to Pepperdine, Vance had a double-double with a season-high 33 kills and 12 digs. He has eight double-doubles this season. Three of them have come in the past six games.

Matadors (22-6, 15-6 MPSF) vs. UCSB (8-18, 4-17)

Date: Friday
Time: 7 p.m.

Place: The Thunderdome, Santa Barbara
Series: UCSB leads CSUN 42-32