The men’s volleyball season came to an end Thursday after the Matadors lost 3-1 to Pepperdine in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. The loss brought a finish to a second consecutive superb season by the Matadors as the program continues its rise into elite status in collegiate volleyball.
‘Last year, I thought we were the fourth or fifth best team in the country,’ CSUN coach Jeff Campbell said. ‘This year, on the West Coast, we have been No. 2 or No. 3 all year and it really feels like we took a step up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t high enough.
‘When I look at the entire year, I’m proud because we had 24 wins, the most in our history, and we had a great year when you look at those things.’
The Matadors have won 47 games in the past two seasons while getting knocked out in the semifinals in both seasons. In 2008, it was BYU giving them the axe. On Thursday, it was the Waves. The loss against Pepperdine was especially tough for the Matadors, who put all their energy into an all-time classic second set they lost.
It was the second longest set in the league this season and included six set points for CSUN and five for the Waves. On their sixth set point, the Matadors were ahead 38-37 and put the crowd in a frenzy as they were in insuperable position to take a commanding 2-0 set lead. One more point and the Matadors would have been in the driver’s seat to their second appearance in the MPSF Championship game. Unfortunately for the Matadors, everything turned the other way from that point on and a great season and any chance at making the NCAA Final Four came to an end as the Waves won next three points and won the set 40-38.
‘I believe our season ended in the second set,’ junior middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak said. ‘We made a hell of a comeback. We were almost there and couldn’t finish. We were just tired after that, the energy fell a little bit and I strongly believe that was the difference.’
Even after getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Waves for the fourth time since 2004, the Matadors future looks bright as the team returns all but one player next season.
‘We are going to be competitive again next year,’ Campbell said. ‘Hopefully we can put ourselves in a better situation. We lost two matches this season in Hawaii that really set us back and hopefully we will be better than we were this year. We return everybody except for Eric (Vance). He’s going to be a big loss for us next year and no doubt we are going to need to play better.’
The season began with the Matadors winning 16 of their first 18 games, accomplishment which garnered them a No. 1 ranking ‘- the second in school history. The Matadors then hit a bump, losing four of their last 11 matches. Leading the way this season was Vance, the All-American senior, a two-time MPSF First Team selection who led the team in kills, kills per set and aces. He was one of the reasons for the program’s rise to the top of the national eye. He believes Matadors volleyball will continue to improve.
‘There are a lot of good players on this team,’ Vance said. ‘They will be fine next year. We went from the fourth best team last year to the third best team in the nation this year, so now we just got to keep going up as a program.’
Some of the players, like Ratajczak, will take the summer to work on fine-tuning their game as they look to make another run at winning the school’s first national championship.
‘I am going to work my ass off over the summer to get better,’ Ratajczak said. ‘We have almost the whole team coming back, except for Eric, which is a big loss for the team, but I still believe we are going to be one of the best teams in the nation. (We’re going to) try to break the school record for wins again next year.’
Can they get 25 next season? Some players showed confidence in the goal.
‘We are definitely going to go all the way next season,’ freshman setter Matt Stork said.