Having lost three of its last six matches going into Friday’s final tuneup at UC Santa Barbara, the CSUN men’s volleyball team was able to accomplish a goal. Right before the postseason starts.
‘We definitely accomplished what we wanted to do,’ senior Eric Vance said following the Matadors’ 3-0 sweep of the Gauchos at Robertson Gym. ‘Everyone played phenomenal. That’s how I know we can play and if we play like that, we are going to go very far in the playoffs.’
The No. 3 Matadors (23-6, 16-6 MPSF) did more than accomplish their goal against UCSB (8-19, 4-18 MPSF), hitting a season-high .598 thanks to their fabulous freshman Matt Stork, who had 44 assists. Vance and Tanner Nua added 20 and 14 kills respectively.
‘It feels real good,’ Stork said. ‘ It was a great match for us and we finished the regular season the way we wanted. We hit the best we have all year, and our ace-to-service-error ratio was really good tonight.’
The match began with the teams going back and forth through the first 36 points before the Matadors ran away with the frame, winning 12 of the next 16 points to take the first game, 30-22. Leading the way in the set were Nua with seven kills and junior Mike Gaudino, who added five.
The Matadors came out firing in the second set, getting out to an 11-5 advantage that forced Gaucho coach Rick McLaughlin to call a timeout. UCSB responded with a 7-2 spurt that got them within one point of the Matadors at 13-12.
But not even fans shouting obscenities could take the Matadors out of their game as they answered with a 10-4 run which was highlighted by Gaudino’s service ace that hit a Gaucho player in the face.
‘Plays like that always fire us up,’ Nua said. ‘Especially when someone on the other team gets hit in the face. We really enjoyed it. It sparked us and we started playing better.’
The Matadors went on to outscore the Gauchos 7-5 and took the set 30-21, Northridge got in an early 8-2 hole in the third set, but slowly began to chip away at the Gaucho lead. Vance got the Matadors within two at 10-8 with back-to-back points.
However, on senior night, UCSB was not about to fold and managed to stretch its lead up to five (19-14). The Matadors rallied once more and tied the game at 20 thanks to another kill from Vance, and took the lead on the next point on a kill from Gaudino.