It was a festive atmosphere at the Matadome Wednesday night, as the No. 6 CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team hosted the No. 4 Pepperdine Waves.
A packed house of 944 made their way into the Matadome Wednesday night, with the majority of them of fellow CSUN student athletes from women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s basketball, women’s water polo, softball, swimming and women’s tennis, did everything they could to will the Matadors to victory.
“The crowd support was great,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “It was the type of atmosphere that everybody likes to be in.”
“It was awesome,” . junior setter Travis Bluemling said of the crowd. “It was great to see everyone there.”
Pepperdine however had other ideas, and backed by its own cheering section, the Waves withstood the hostile atmosphere and a dramatic first game loss to defeat CSUN in five games by scores of 43-45, 30-23, 23-30, 30-25 and 15-9.
“We played hard,” Campbell said. “We got tired at the end, but we certainly played hard.”
Sophomore outside Eric Vance led the Matadors with 23 kills and 13 digs, junior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl had 21 kills and 13 assists and sophomore opposite Ryan Adams had 15. Bluemling assisted 56 kills and freshman Libero Sean Carter had 11 digs.
“This was a game we definitely should’ve won,” Bluemling said. “We just didn’t come through in the end.”
Game one provided for lots of excitement. Pepperdine led by as many as three early in the match, but the Matadors soon came back to make a match of it.
The Matadors actually led 28-25 until the Waves came back with four in a row, the last on a Paul Carroll kill to put Pepperdine at game point, but a Vance kill forced sudden death, but the excitement was just beginning.
Both teams traded the next ten sets, then with Pepperdine leading 35-34, Tom Hulse sent a hit to the right of Matador territory that ended up out of play. The officials at first ruled the ball touched the inside of Matador territory, which made the CSUN student section livid, but the call was eventually overturned and the Matadors were still alive.
Hulse picked up another kill following the error, but a Kevin McKniff kill and a Vance ace gave CSUN the game point advantage. Pepperdine stayed alive however, and regained game point at 40-39 on a CSUN net violation, but the Matadors stayed alive, and trailing 43-42, CSUN got the ball back on a Pepperdine net violation and back-to-back kills by Kneubuhl ended the first game marathon with a Matador win.
“I was just having fun,” Bluemling said. “It was an enjoyable atmosphere with all the fans, I wasn’t to stressed, I was just having fun.”
The start of game two was again hotly contested, then with the game tied at nine, Pepperdine won the next three sets to take a 12-9 lead and force a CSUN timeout. Pepperdine then won five of the next eight set to lead 17-12 and force another Matador timeout. The Waves were in control from there, as they led by as many as nine on its way to the win.
The Matadors, though, responded in game three. Trailing 9-8, back-to-back Kneubuhl kills and a Pepperdine attack error gave CSUN an 11-9 lead, forcing a Waves timeout.
The Matadors held on to the lead though they struggled to shake off the pesky Waves, leading by more than five points. Then leading 21-16, CSUN won the next five sets, the last four on Pepperdine attack errors to take a 26-16 lead. The Waves responded with four of the next five points to cut the lead to 27-20, forcing a CSUN timeout. A Hulse kill further cut into the lead, but Kneubuhl stopped the run by going off a Pepperdine block for a kill, and CSUN won two of the next four points to take game three and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Pepperdine answered right back. The Matadors led 2-1 until the Waves ran off seven of the next eight points to take an 8-3 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout.
The Waves won the next two sets following the timeout, but the Matadors came out swinging, winning seven of the next nine sets to cut the lead to 12-10. Pepperdine won four of the next five sets to raise the lead to 16-11, which was countered by a 5-1 Matador run which cut the Wave’s lead to 16-15, but that was the closest CSUN got, as Pepperdine won consecutive sets, then after the Matadors won two of three sets, won the next three sets to take a 22-17 lead, forcing a Matador timeout.
The five point lead turned out to be the breathing room Pepperdine needed, as they held off the Matadors to win game four 30-25 and set up the deciding fifth match.
Pepperdine scored the first two points of the fifth game. CSUN answered with its own consecutive sets, but Pepperdine won the next three sets to lead 5-2 and force a CSUN timeout. The Waves were just getting started, as they won two more sets to fore another CSUN timeout and came out of that break by winning three of four sets to take a 10-3 lead. The Matadors did try to make a game out of it, going on a 6-3 run to cut the lead to 13-9, forcing a Pepperdine timeout. The Waves though didn’t budge, as they got the ball back on a CSUN service error and Hulse and J.D. Schleppenbach denied a Matador attack to seal the game and the match for the Waves.
“We passed the ball off the net, and it makes it hard to run the offense by passing the ball off the net in games’ four and five,” Campbell said. “We didn’t hit for a good percentage after that because of the passing.”
In fact, the Matadors hit .111 in game four and .048 in game five. In the two wins, CSUN hit .409 in game one and .179 in game three and even though it lost game two, the Matadors hit .195.
“We kind of tensed up (towards the end),” senior middle blocker James Lischer said.
Paul Carroll was a force for the Waves with 31 kills. Jon Grobe had 12 kills and 14 digs, Hulse had 11 kills and John Parfitt had 10. Jonathan Winder had 63 assists and 14 digs and Tanner Sutherland had 17 digs.
The Matadors were at a bit of a disadvantage, as they played most of the match without one of its main weapons, senior outside hitter Dan Rhodes, who is recovering from a shoulder injury according to Campbell.
“He’s getting better,” Campbell said of Rhodes. “He’s getting close to being 100 percent.”
Pepperdine improved to 6-1, 5-1 in Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation play while CSUN fell to 4-6, 3-4 in MPSF play. CSUN hosted the USC Trojans this past Friday and will now head out to Chicago, first to face Loyola of Chicago on Friday, then Quincy University on Saturday.