Matadors find their winning ways

Ivan Yeo

The CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team’s 2007 season is underway, and so far, the Matadors have gotten mixed results.

CSUN stands at 4-5, 3-3 in Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation play after a three-game sweep of Long Beach State at the Walter Pyramid on Jan. 24, and another sweep against the UC San Diego Tritans on Jan. 26.

Sophomore outside hitter Eric Vance had a team high 15 kills, junior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl smashed 11 kills and junior setter Travis Bluemling had 36 assists.

The Matadors’ win over Long Beach State was much needed, as it snapped a three-game losing streak.

Prior to their win over Long Beach State, the Matadors opened the 2007 season at the Elephant Bar Invitational at UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 5.

Ironically, the Matadors’ very first match of the tournament was against Long Beach State, but the first meeting provided for a little more drama, as the Matadors defeated the 49ers in five games by scores of 39-37, 27-30, 31-29, 28-30 and 15-12.

CSUN’s next opponent later that night was the UC Irvine Anteaters, a 2006 NCAA final four participant and the MPSF’s 2007 preseason favorite, and Irvine lived up to the hype, as they swept the Matadors by scores of 30-19, 30-24 and 30-22.

CSUN had hoped to go out on a good note the next day, but the host Gauchos had other ideas, as they defeated the Matadors in four games by scores of 30-25, 24-30, 30-17 and 30-22 to claim third place in the tournament.

CSUN then headed out on the road to Northern California for the opening of MPSF play.

The Matadors started out well, defeating Stanford on Jan. 12 in four games by scores of 30-20, 30-23, 26-30 and 30-22, but stalled when they went up to Stockton to face the Pacific Tigers the next day, as it got swept by scores of 31-29, 30-26 and 30-28.

CSUN hoped to right the ship with two home matches, but they just happened to be against two of the best teams in the MPSF, the UC Irvine Anteaters on Jan. 17 and the UCLA Bruins on Jan 19.

The Matadors gave the Anteaters a run in game one, but Irvine proved to have a little more, as they overcame two Matador game points to take game one in sudden death 36-34.

The Matadors ultimately didn’t recover, as the Anteaters won game two 30-21 and game three 30-19 to take the match.

CSUN had a much better showing against the Bruins two nights later, but the overall result was still the same as the last three matches.

CSUN trailed by four early in game one, but the Matadors soon came back and eventually took the first game 30-27.

UCLA though won the next two games by scores of 30-23 and 30-25, but CSUN came back to win game four 30-23 and set up the deciding fifth match.

The Bruins though proved to be a little too much to handle as they won game five 15-10 and took the match.

“We had our chances,” Kneubuhl said. “We were a little timid in the end.”

CSUN got a balanced attack, as Vance smashed 18 kills, senior opposite Dan Rhodes had 17, Kneubuhl had 14 and senior middle blocker James Lischer had 14.

Bluemling had 34 assists, freshman setter Sean Pederson had 27 and freshman libero Sean Carter had 11 digs.

“We learned from this that we can hang with the best teams in the conference,” Rhodes said. “Next time when they come around, we’ll be ready for them.”

The Matadors have seven freshmen on this year’s team, and after losing four starters from last year’s team, head coach Jeff Campbell is using the early part of the season to get the newcomers familiar with his system.

“It’s going to take some time before we get grooving again with a set lineup, which (we) still don’t have,” Campbell said.

CSUN returns home tonight to face the Pepperdine Waves, the team that has eliminated CSUN in the MPSF playoffs four of the last five seasons, at the Matadome before playing the USC Trojans on Feb. 2.

Campbell said he believes the team should improve as the season goes along.

“This is a long season,” Campbell said. “We have 22 league matches. We need to be making the playoffs and playing well at the end of the season before the playoffs.”