The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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There is no place like the Matadome

It had to feel like the Pepperdine match all over again for the CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team this past Thursday.

The ninth-ranked Matadors found themselves in another five-game battle at the Matadome, this time against the 13th ranked Long Beach State 49ers. And just when the Matadors hosted the Pepperdine Waves back on Jan. 31, both teams were backed by loud and vocal cheering sections that did their best to will their teams to victory.

And just like in the Pepperdine match, Northridge led Long Beach two games to one only to see the 49ers take that fourth game to set up the decider. But this time, the Matadors found a way to pull through as they out-lasted a determined 49er squad by scores of 28-30, 30-20, 30-21, 28-30 and 19-17.

“I thought at times both teams played very well,” Matador head coach Jeff Campbell said. “Anytime you win a close match like that, a deuce game in the fifth game, it means that both teams are very close in strength and talent.”

Senior opposite Dan Rhodes led the Northridge effort with 23 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Eric Vance had 15 kills and junior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl and senior middle blocker James Lischer had 10 kills apiece. Kneubuhl also had 10 digs and junior setter Travis Bluemling assisted 54 kills.

CSUN held the lead throughout the early stages of game one, though it could never quite shake off Long Beach State. Dan Alexander put an end to any thought of an extended first game with a kill to the middle of the court.

CSUN, though, responded in the next two games. Game two was tied at seven early until the Matadors ran off three straight sets to lead 10-7 and force a Long Beach timeout. The 49ers responded by winning four of the next five sets to tie the game at 11, but the Matadors answered with four of five sets, the last three consecutively to lead 15-12 and force another 49er timeout. Five wins in the six sets following the timeout gave CSUN a comfortable 20-13 lead. Long Beach never recovered, as the Matadors went on to the 30-20 win.

Game three was more of the same. The Matadors held a 3-2 lead, but then won six of seven sets to take a 9-3 lead, setting the tone for the remainder of the third game. Long Beach got as close as five on several occasions, but never made a serious run at Northridge, who won going away 30-21 to take a two-games-to-one lead.

Game four saw a role-reversal from the last two games, as Long Beach jumped out to an early lead and forced CSUN to play catch-up. The 49ers maintained the lead all the way to game point at 29-26, but kills by Rhodes and Vance again brought the Matadors to within a point of sudden death, but just like the first game, the 49ers managed to close out the game, this time on a Norm Hutton kill.

“We let our guard down a little bit,” Rhodes said.

Game five saw a dramatic finish. Again Long Beach jumped out to the early lead, holding an 8-5 lead, but a Vance kill and Lotman attack error brought CSUN to within one.

The Matadors then traded points with the 49ers to put themselves at match point, but a Long Beach roof block sent the match into sudden death. With the game tied at 17, the Matadors got the ball back on a service error and Lischer finally put the match to rest with a spike near the middle of 49er territory.

“Everything came together in the end, especially the fans,” Kneubuhl said. “The fans were a huge reason why we won.”

CSUN was once again backed by the loud and vocal Red Rally section, led by members of the men’s soccer and women’s volleyball team. Further adding fuel to their fire, several members of the Long Beach State women’s volleyball team arrived at the Matadome during the third game and were immediately greeted by a chorus of boos.

After its grind against the 49ers, the Matadors had a much easier time with UC San Diego the next night, sweeping the Tritons by scores of 30-27, 30-24 and 30-24. Rhodes again led the way with 18 kills while Vance had 11. The Matadors (8-7, 6-4) will now embark on a tough two-game stretch, as they face the sixth-ranked UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night, followed by trip to Crawford Gym to face the third-ranked UC Irvine Anteaters Saturday night. Both games are at 7 p.m.

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