After another dominant performance by All-American Senior Eric Vance on Friday, the men’s volleyball team improved to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.’
Vance has shown a lot of poise in the early season, leading his team to these victories and putting up big numbers, like his 25 kills in the team’s latest victory over UC Irvine, 3-1. Before that, CSUN gave itself the luxury of also beating UCLA. Twice. ‘We’re pretty hot right now, but we’ve got to stay hot throughout the season,’ said Vance after the team’s second win over the Bruins on Wednesday. ‘We can’t let down.’
CSUN won the Elephant Bar/UCSB Championship Tournament to open this year’s season.’ CSUN, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation, began its championship run with a win over the No. 8 Bruins, a game in which Vance had a game-high 21 kills while freshman Matt Stork posted an impressive 49 assists in his first game at the college level.
CSUN kept the ball rolling in the semifinals of the tournament with a 3-1 victory over UC Santa Barbara in which Vance recorded 19 kills and was helped by Junior Mike Gaudino, who had 15 kills of his own.’ Part of what helps this CSUN team to be so dominant at the net is the presence of 7-foot middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak, who had a team-high six blocks.
Vance was the difference at UCSB, but some of the attention was taken off him due to the strong play of Sophomore Tanner Nua, who had 11 kills, and Junior Kevin McKniff, who knocked down nine.
Eventually CSUN made its way to the finals, where it beat Stanford, 3-1, to claim its first Elephant Bar/UCSB Championship since joining the tournament in 1996.’ Vance knocked down a match-high 20 kills while Ratajczak and Gaudino also added double-digit kills in the winning effort.’ In the end, Vance was named tournament MVP, finishing the weekend with 60 kills.
That brought this squad to a 3-0 start coming into its first MPSF game at Pauley Pavilion against, once again, UCLA.
Vance delivered once again, with a solid double-double performance, executing 18 kills and getting down low for 10 digs.’ Nua helped the winning cause with eight kills while McKniff added seven.’ CSUN was able to control the tempo at the net in the first game due to big play from Ratajczak and Nua and coasted to a 3-0 victory.
‘We’re trying to send a message that we’re trying to be the team to beat,’ junior outside hitter Mike Gaudino said after the win. ‘Hopefully we’ll continue that through the year.’
Their next test was on Friday night at UC Irvine, the No. 5 team in the nation. Vance demonstrated why he is an All-American and had a season-high 25 kills and 10 digs, accounting for his second double-double of the season.’ Also, Nua and Ratajczak had 11 kills apiece while McKniff had 10 of his own and eight blocks. It all resulted in a 3-1 win. ‘
Stork has been assisting at a high level, allowing dangerous hitters like Gaudino, Vance, McKniff, Nua and Ratajzak to fire hard at opposing teams.’ Then, by winning the battle down low at the net, the team is able to control the game.
Are they thinking National Championship?
‘It takes all of us firing on all cylinders, playing as a team,’ Vance said.’ ‘We have the potential and we’re reaching it right now. We just have to stay steady.’
CSUN will host its first game of the season Wednesday. The rival of turn will be the Gauchos (2-3, 0-2 MPSF).