No. 2 Matadors sweep Gauchos, remain perfect

Victor Corona

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The No. 2 ranked Matadors continued their dominating play Friday night sweeping No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, 3-0, in their home opener. The win gave CSUN their first 6-0 start in school history.

‘We’re playing good volleyball, serving well, siding out well,’ CSUN Head Coach Jeff Campbell said. ‘We’re trying to set up a system where it doesn’t matter who we play. We can make minor adjustments and maintain what we want to do and still come out on top.’

Leading the way for the Matadors were senior Eric Vance and sophomore Tanner Nua, who combined on 25 of the team’s 50 kills. Nua dominated the second set with two big blocks and seven kills. The last one gave the team the set.

After, Nua was all about the team.

‘We’re coming together as a team really well,’ Nua said. ‘We’re bonding together as a team like we never have before.’

Vance, the National Player of the Week, got things started for the Matadors with a kill. UCSB would get within 8 -7 in the first set before CSUN went on a 22 -14 run to finish it. Vance and Junior Jacek Ratajczak combined to block sophomore Jeff Menzel kill opportunity on set-point to give Northridge the 30-21 set win.’ ‘

The Matadors never trailed by more than one point in any set. The only time the Gauchos threatened was in the second set, but back-to-back service aces from junior Mike Gaudino put away any chance for a comeback. Gaudino finished with eight kills, five digs and two aces.’

In the third and final set, the teams went back and forth trading leads until a hitting error by Gaucho sophomore Cullen Irons and another pair of aces, this time from Junior Kevin Mcniff, gave the Matadors a 14-11 lead. The final frame was the toughest for Northridge.

The Gauchos got within 29-27, but the set was put away on a Mcniff kill.

With the win the Matadors won their sixth straight and improved to 3-0 in the Mountain

Pacific Sports Federation. Northridge is dominating opponents this season, having won 18 of 22 sets and swept two of their last three opponents.’ None of their matches have lasted more than four sets.’

The best start in school history before this season was during the 1985 season when the team began the season with five straight victories before losing their sixth game to USC.

This is also Campbell’s best career start to a season.

‘I hate to sound redundant, but we take it one game at a time,’ Eric Vance said. ‘We can’t focus on our record. We have to take every game like we are the underdog. Every game like we have nothing to lose.’

The Gauchos were led by Menzel’s 13 kills, which tied him with Nua for most in the game. UCSB’s loss was their second to the Matadors this season. They also lost at their own UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational 3-1 on Jan. 9. The loss dropped them to 2-4 and 0-3 in the MPSF.

Freshmen Matt Stork had 45 assist and helped the team to their best hitting percentage of the season .416.

Game notes:

Eric Vance needs six kills to move past Dan Rhodes for tenth place in the school’s career kill list.

Halfway through the first set, Gaucho players and coaches were complaining to the referees about flickering flashes that were coming from the Matadome’s roof. Then, towards the end of the third set, their coaches were complaining that Matador players were asking for the floor to be wiped every time the Gauchos won a point.

CSUN heads back on the road next weekend, traveling to Hawaii for two matches on Friday and Saturday before returning home to open a five-game homestand, beginning Feb. 6 against Long Beach State.