Volleyball loses to UCLA, but beats UC Irvine

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The ninth ranked CSUN men’s volleyball team played well over the last week, but fell to the top ranked UCLA Bruins Wednesday. Following the defeat, the Matadors went on to win their final road match of the season, in Irvine, beating the UCI Anteaters 3-1 Saturday.

Against the Bruins, the Matadors played tough all four matches but only had enough to win the third, 30-27. The other three matches belonged to UCLA 30-23, 33-31 and 30-27.

With the win, the Bruins improved to 23-3 overall and 16-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, while the Matadors dropped to 15-12 overall and 8-11 in conference. UCLA has now beaten CSUN three times this season.

Senior Nils Nielsen had a match-high 25 kills, 12 digs and recorded his third triple-double of the season while hitting .340. Freshman Isaac Kneubuhl added 14 kills hitting .345 and sophomore James Lischer chipped in with 11 kills, while hitting a team-high .471.

Junior Brian Waite had nine kills and three blocks which tied Lischer for the team high. Sophomore Sebastian Pedraza had a match-high 17 digs and Jeff Conover had 62 assists for the Matadors, who hit .319 (69-24-141) as a team.

For UCLA, Paul Johnson had a team-high 20 kills while hitting .500. Matt McKinney had 17 kills and Steve Klosterman had 16 kills while hitting .517. Libero Tony Ker had a team-high 12 digs and Dennis Gonzalez had a match-high 63 assists. UCLA held the advantage in hitting percentage as the Bruins hit at .329 (70-22-146).

In the match, UCLA had eight aces to three for CSUN. UCLA also had 13.5 team blocks to 7.5 for the Matadors. CSUN’s only edge came in digs, where they had a 47-42 advantage.

The next match for Northridge was against the 13th ranked Anteaters in Irvine, where the Matadors ended their road season on a positive note by defeating UCI.

After losing the first game 27-30, CSUN held a 19-17 advantage in game two when UCI went on a quick run, tying the score at 20. The teams traded points until the Matadors used an Anteater hitting error and a service ace combined with a kill by Waite to give Northridge the 24-21 lead. The Matadors went on to win the game 30-26.

“It sometimes takes one game to get used to a gym on the road,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “I think we just needed to settle down and get in rhythm.”

In game three, UCI was down 22-20 before a kill by Jayson Jablonsky and a service ace by Brian Thornton tied the score at 22. However, a block and a kill by Waite followed by two UCI hitting errors gave CSUN a 26-22 lead. UCI would get as close as 29-27, but an Anteater service error would end the game and give CSUN a 2-1 advantage with the 30-27 victory.

“Late in the game, there is a lot of pressure,” Campbell said, in response to his team having a lead late in games two and three only to have UCI tie the score. “But we had a lot of blocks at the end of both games that gave us the advantage.”

Game four was not as close, as CSUN led 4-3 early on and then scored four unanswered points to take an 8-3 lead. Northridge won the game 30-21 and thus the match 3-1.

Nielsen had a team-high 22 kills and was followed by Kneubuhl and Lischer, who each had 10. Senior setter Jeff Conover posted his first double-double of the season with 49 assists and a season-high 10 digs, while Pedraza also had 10 digs.

“He (Nielsen) has been instrumental in all of our wins in the last five to six weeks,” Campbell said. “He has turned into a go-to player and we want him to hit the ball with the game on the line.”

With the win, the Matadors improved to 16-12 overall and 9-11 in the MPSF, while the Anteaters fell to 8-19 overall and 6-14 in conference play. The loss also knocks UCI out of playoff contention.

CSUN played last night at home against the USC Trojans, but the results are still pending. CSUN swept all three games against USC in February.

“We are very focused on SC,” Campbell said before the USC match. “This is a very important match for us. We will not take them lightly.”