Northridge upsets fourth-ranked Gauchos

Ivan Yeo

Back with a bang!

Exactly a week after injuring his ankle against UCLA, Senior opposite Dan Rhodes returned for the 11th ranked CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team’s matchup with the fourth-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at the Matadome Wednesday night, and Rhodes delivered with 25 kills and a .444 hitting percentage, as the Matadors upset the Gauchos in four games by scored of 23-20, 30-23, 30-27 and 30-26.

“One or two plays’ I tweaked it a little bit, but it wasn’t bad,” Rhodes said of his ankle. “It felt good throughout the match.”

Rhodes wasn’t the only Matador to shine against the Gauchos. Sophomore outside hitter Eric Vance had 16 kills while hitting .414 while freshman setter Sean Pederson had 51 set assists. Evan Patak was a one-man wrecking crew for the Gauchos, as he smashed 27 kills while hitting .489.

“The team was really connecting,” Pederson said. “We we’re connecting in every part of the field.”

The Gauchos jumped on the Matadors early in the match, winning four of the first five sets. CSUN eventually got in the game and kept Santa Barbara in their sights, getting to within a point of UCSB several times. The Matadors trailed 11-10 until the Gauchos won the next three sets to build a three-point lead. Rhodes stopped the run, but Santa Barbara then won three of the next four sets to take a 17-12 lead and force a Northridge timeout. The Matadors took advantage of several Gaucho serve miscues to win three of next four sets, but the Gauchos again ran off three straight sets to lead 21-15 and force another Matador timeout. Santa Barbara kept Northridge in its rear view mirror, leading 26-18 at one point, but CSUN won three straight sets to cut the lead to 26-21, forcing a Gaucho timeout. UCSB wasn’t fazed though, as it first traded the next four sets with CSUN and David Kennedy smashed two straight kills to end game one.

Santa Barbara again started out hot in game two, winning three of the first four sets, but this time, Northridge answered early, winning three straight sets to take a 4-3 lead. CSUN hung on to the lead until UCSB ripped off three straight sets to take an 8-6 lead. Rhodes stopped that run, but Kennedy went off a pair of Matador blockers for a point and Patak followed suit on the next set to give Santa Barbara a 10-7 lead. The Gauchos increased its lead to 13-10, but the Matadors got the ball back on a service error, Rhodes aced on the ensuing set and James Lischer went off a pair of Gaucho blockers to tie the game at 13, forcing a UCSB timeout. The Gauchos got the ball back on a net serve, but Vance crossed a spike to the right side of Santa Barbara territory and a hit by Patak found the net, putting Northridge back in front. CSUN led 17-16 until the Gauchos won three straight sets to lead 19-17, forcing a Matador timeout. Northridge won three of the next four sets to tie the game at 20, Patak again went of a pair of Matador blockers to give the Gauchos the lead, but the Matadors caught fire, winning the next five sets to take a 25-21 lead, forcing a Santa Barbara timeout. That five-point spurt was all the Matadors needed, as they went on to win game two.

The last two matches were close all the way, though it was the Matadors that played the role of aggressor throughout. In game three, CSUN led by no more than two points and spent most of game three trading points with UCSB. The Matadors led 17-16 until Rhodes went off a pair of Gaucho blockers for consecutive kills to give the Matadors a 19-16 lead, forcing a Santa Barbara timeout. Northridge was in control from there on, leading by as many as four on their way to the win.

Game four was more of the same, with the Matadors holding the lead throughout and the Gauchos doing its best to stay with them. CSUN led 19-17 until a Matador attack went into the net and Patak and Kennedy denied Rhodes’ hit to tie the game and force a Matador timeout. Northridge got the two points back when Lischer went off a pair of Gaucho blockers and Sean Carter aced a serve. The Gauchos answered with consecutive points only to see the Matadors again win the two points back when Vance and junior outside hitter Isaac Knuebuhl went off Gaucho defenders for kills for force a Santa Barbara timeout and Rhodes spiked the ball into open Gaucho territory following the break to give Northridge a 24-21 lead, a lead it never relinquished.

“Everyone was going for it and having a good time,” Rhodes said. “It worked out real well tonight.”

Northridge hit .430 throughout the match. The Matadors hit only .179 in the first game, but ratchet up its percentage the final three games, hitting .469 in game two, .543 in game three and an even .500 in the game.

“Our hitting was much better than it’s been,” head coach Jeff Campbell said. “We definitely executed a lot better than we’ve been playing recently.”

CSUN continued its five-game home stand against the Cal Baptist Lancers last Friday.