After winning the first set with ease, the No. 1 Matadors men’s volleyball team (17-2, 12-2 MPSF) struggled over the next three, but ultimately beat No. 11 UCLA, 3-1, Wednesday night at the Matadome.
‘We came out pumped for UCLA, but not like we should have,’ CSUN sophomore Tanner Nua said. ‘That is what kept us from sweeping them tonight.’
Five serving errors by the Matadors early on kept the Bruins (8-12, 4-9) in the first set. After UCLA’ got within 11-10,’ CSUN took control of the frame thanks to an 8-2 run that seemed to take any hope the Bruins had of pulling out the set. CSUN sophomore outside hitter Mike Gaudino led the charge in the set with five kills. The Matadors never let up in the set offensively and got out to a comfortable nine-point lead. Northridge finished the set strong, winning 30-20.
‘I always get hypde for UCLA,’ Gaudino said. ‘I got a couple of buddies on their team that I played with on clubs and in high school, so i came out a little amped.’
The second set was the total opposite from the first as the teams went back and forth early in the frame. Tied at 16, CSUN used a 3-0 spurt to briefly separate itself from the Bruins. The Matadors would go up by as many as four (23-19) before UCLA rallied to tie the score at 24. The Bruins continued their great play after tying it and outscored CSUN 6-2 to take the second set, 30-26.
The back-and-forth action continued in the third frame until the Matadors were able to take a 12-10 advantage after a Gaudino kill. The Matadors were able to hold on to their two-point cushion until the Bruins tied the score at 19 after an service ace from Bruin junior Garrett Muagututia. The score stayed tied until the 21st point, when the Matadors went on a 4-1 run to take a 25-22 lead. UCLA didn’t go away easily and crawled back to get within one at 28-27. A pair of kills from Vance finally put the Bruins away for good in the frame.
The Bruins were able to get to an early 6-3 lead in the fourth set before the Matadors rallied to tie the game at eight. Up 9-8, a great save from junior libero Ali’i Keohohou sparked a 7-2 run to put the Matadors up six (16-10). The Bruins responded with an 11-5 run to tie the score at 21. CSUN did not fold after the Bruin run, calmly building a 27-24 advantage. UCLA’s last ditch effort was not enough as the Matadors finished the set and won, 30-28.
‘I was praying that I could get to the ball so another teammate could play it,’ Keohohou said.
The Matadors get set for a showdown against No. 2 UC Irvine on Friday. The winner will be on top of the conference.
No. 1 Matadors vs. No. 2 UC Irvine
Date: Friday’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
Place: The Matadome, Northridge
Time: 7 p.m.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
Last meeting: CSUN 3 @ UCI 1, Jan. 16
After dropping set one of the first meeting against UC Irvine this season, the Matadors were able to take command of the match, winning the next three sets. Leading the way for CSUN was All-American Eric Vance with 25 kills while sophomore Tanner Nua and junior Jacek Ratajczak combined for 22. Friday’s match-up will not only be for the top spot in the nation, but it also a tiebreaker for the conference’s lead.