Matadors fall short of upsetting Bruins

Ivan Yeo

History was unable to repeat itself at Pauley Pavilion Wednesday night, which was bad news for the CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team.

The Matador’s last two matches with the UCLA Bruins at the legendary arena were filled with great memories, as they upset the ever-powerful Bruins in two nail-biting five-game matches. The first time came during the 2005 Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation Tournament, when CSUN won the first two games only to see the UCLA come back and win the next two and in game five, trailed 14-10 until the Matadors staged an improbable rally, winning six consecutive points to win the game and stun the Bruins. Then during the 2006 regular season, UCLA won the first two games, but CSUN came back to win the final three game.

On Wednesday night, UCLA won the first two games handily. However, CSUN threatened to repeat last year’s performance in game three, as it led early in the match. CSUN was in position to extend it beyond four games, but the Bruins would not be denied, as they hung on to sweep the Matadors by scored of 30-16, 30-23 and 30-26.

Bruins opposite Steve Klosterman was a one-man wrecking crew against the Matadors, as he smashed 31 kills on 45 attempts and finished with a .667 hitting percentage. Kevin Ker assisted a total of 51 kills and Tony Ker had 11 digs. UCLA hit an incredible .537 in the match.

The Matadors started out as the aggressors early in game three, holding a 12-7 lead only to see the Bruins come back with four straight points to get within one and force a CSUN timeout. A Bruin roof block and a Klosterman kill gave UCLA the lead. CSUN got the ball back on a Kevin Ker serve error, but gave the ball and the lead right back to UCLA on its own serve error. A Matador attack error and another Klosterman kill gave the Bruins a 16-13 lead.

The Matadors didn’t buckle though, staying with UCLA until a kill by freshman outside hitter Mike Gaudino gave CSUN a 20-19 lead. CSUN traded points to stay in control and led 24-23. Klosterman tied the game and on the ensuing set. A bizarre sequence occurred when Travis Bluemling and James Lishcer both made-contact with the ball on the set resulted in a double-contact violation that gave UCLA the lead. CSUN again got the ball back on a service error, but Paul George sent a spike that nearly put a pothole on the Pauley Pavilion floor, which was followed by another Klosterman kill that gave UCLA a 27-25 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. All that did was delay the inevitable, as the Bruins got the three points it needed to close out the match. All three points were recorded by Klosterman.

Game one was dominated by the Bruins, as they never trailed, using a three-point spurt to break a 7-7 tie. The Bruins and Matadors traded the next five points until UCLA won another three straight sets to lead 15-10 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. Kevin McKniff temporarily halted the run, but the Bruins responded with four straight wins to open up a 19-11 lead, forcing another CSUN timeout. UCLA was in firm control for there, but a bigger loss occurred for CSUN during the first game, as senior opposite Dan Rhodes injured his ankle during a set and did not return to the game.

In game two, the Matadors held a one-point lead two times, the last at 8-7 until UCLA won the next three sets to take a 10-8 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. The Bruins though were just getting started, as it won five of the next six sets to open up a 15-9 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. Just like the first game, UCLA remained in control from there. The Matadors made some runs at the Bruins, but could never overcome the huge deficit, which peaked at nine and UCLA ended up winning game two by seven.

Sophomore outside hitter Eric Vance led the Matador effort with 13 kills and Junior setter Travis Bluemling had 13 assists. CSUN fell to 8-8, 6-5 in the MPSF while UCLA improved to 9-7, 8-7 in conference play.

The Matadors task didn’t get any easier, as it traveled further down the 405 South to UC Irvine to face the second-ranked Anteaters Saturday night.