Going into this past weekend’s matches against No. 7 Long Beach State and No. 15 UC San Diego having lost two consecutive matches in Hawaii, some of the Matador players felt they needed to prove they were still an elite team.
The No. 4 Matadors not only proved they’re an elite team, they also made a statement, sweeping LBSU Friday and doing the same to UCSD the day after at the Matadome.
‘We were motivated by what happened in Hawaii,’ junior middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak said. ‘The two losses helped us find out what we needed to work and we did that.’
After the score was 5-5 in the first set of the match against the 49ers, CSUN (8-2, 5-2 MPSF) took command and outscored LBSU (5-5, 4-3 MPSF) 25-19 to finish the set 30-24.’ ‘ ‘ ‘
The second and third sets had the fans from both sides on the edge of their seats. In the second set the Matadors jumped out to a 13-6 advantage. CSUN looked poised to take the set, but a 21-14 run by the 49ers evened the score at 27. The teams traded the next three points. With the scored tied at 30, sophomore opposite hitter Tanner Nua pounded a kill that the LBSU players disputed angrily. The heated arguing resulted in sophomore setter Mike Klipsch receiving a yellow card and gave the Matadors a 32-30 set win.
‘We’ve got to control our emotions a little bit better and not get into that situation where we are talking to the refs,’ 49er Head Coach Alan Knipe said. ‘Most of the time, the refs give a warning before they give a yellow card.’
Ratajczak had a big night for the Matadors with 10 kills, seven blocks, one ace and a dig.’ LBSU opposite hitter Dean Bittner tied CSUN senior outside hitter Eric Vance with 14 kills in the match.
The third and final frame was a seesaw battle that featured 30 ties and 15 lead changes. Down 24-22, CSUN Head Coach Jeff Campbell’s timeout sparked a 3-0 rally that gave his team a 25-24 lead. The teams then traded the next six points, tying the match at 31. Vance came up with a huge kill to give the team a one-point advantage. A hitting error by LBSU middle blocker Dan Alexander gave Northridge the win and a hard-fought sweep.
‘It was a hard 3-0,’ Vance said. ‘Long Beach is a great team. They took us real hard those last two games. They weren’t going to give up real easy. It was not a 3-0 pushover.’
What was a pushover for the Matadors was their match-up against UCSD on Saturday. CSUN won each set by an average of eight points.
Northridge got out to 9-3 lead in the first set. The Tritons got within four at 14-10, but the Matadors closed the game on a 16-10 run and cruised to a 30-20 win.
UCSD was up 12-9 in the second set before the Matadors responded with an 8-5 run to tie the score at 17. Three consecutive attack errors by the Tritons gave CSUN a 20-17 lead. Then, the Matadors took charge of the set – and the match. CSUN didn’t have any more difficulties en route to its third consecutive sweep at home.
For the second night in a row, Vance led the team in kills with 14. Junior outside hitter Mike Gaudino pitched in 13.
Service errors continued to hunt the Matadors. They had 46.
‘We’ve got a lot of work to do,’ Campbell said. ‘We are not a great team right now. We’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do at this point.” ‘ ‘
On Saturday, the Tritons were given a phantom point in the first set with CSUN leading 10-5. Campbell noticed the mistake and told the scoring official about it, but the point was never taken away. After the match, Campbell said the scoring official didn’t give him an explanation as to why UC San Diego was given an extra point.