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Men’s volleyball secures three-set victory prior to 10-day break

CSUN men’s volleyball (8-5) picked up a three-set victory against Hope International University (4-4), and entered familiar territory with the win as they head into a 10-day break. In their...

CSUN men’s volleyball (8-5) picked up a three-set victory against Hope International University (4-4), and entered familiar territory with the win as they head into a 10-day break.

In their latest stretch of games, the Matadors split their two matches against fourth-ranked Stanford University, defeated UC Merced in four sets, and were shut out by the Master’s University. Head coach Theo Edwards believes that CSUN’s inconsistency was caused in part by the stresses players face off the court, such as tough classes, which influence their focus in games.

“We played with a little bit of funk last week. The last two matches that we played, we just… we really didn’t find rhythm,” Edwards said. “We struggled to find it, but it was nice to see us find our rhythm tonight and turn it back on.”

The Matadors are 8-5, just like they were last season through 13 games. While that seems like a good thing for CSUN, all the Matadors who were on the team last year remember the 13-day break they had that turned their season upside-down.

Heading into the break last year, the Matadors were 12-5, and had just capped off an eight-game win streak with a shutout over 10th-ranked Stanford. When they got back from their hiatus, the Matadors lost all 11 of their remaining games, winning only five sets the rest of the season.

“Volleyball is a lot about consistency,” said middle blocker Jano Tello, “I think once we continue to practice and get better and work on the little things, that’ll help us stay in shape and be able to perform at the highest level.”

So far, the Matadors have done a good job emulating their success from the first half of last season. The question remains whether they can stay consistent in conference play.

The Matadors have two very potent offensive threats this season in fourth-year Kyle Hobus and redshirt first-year Jalen Phillips. The latter was out in the match against Hope International, and filling in for him in a larger role was Lorenzo Bertozzi.

Bertozzi did not skip a beat, leading the team with 14 kills, while Hobus had eight and outside hitter Griffin Walters had seven. Those three combined had more points than Hope International did as a team.

“We’ve been talking about it all year,” Edwards said. “One of the differences between this group and the groups we’ve had in the past is that depth. And having guys who can come in, like Matteo [Salvador], like Lorenzo [Bertozzi], like Jackson Payne… it’s great.”

The Matadors went 13-deep in this battle, as Edwards decided to sub most of his starters out in the third set.

Also stepping up was Donovan Constable, who collected 32 assists throughout the match.

The first set was close. The Royals kept it within five points for a majority of the action, but CSUN’s 3-0 lead in the beginning proved to be enough of a cushion to give the Matadors the first set.

The second set was a different story. The Royals took their first lead of the game as they jumped out to a 5-3 advantage. The Matadors had three errors in that stretch, but corrected them after the Royals committed their own service error. CSUN went on a 6-0 run to take a four-point lead, which, just like in the first set, proved insurmountable. The Matadors’ lead ballooned to as much as 10 on their path to a set two victory.

The final set was a back-and-forth affair until the score got to 8-8. The Matadors then went on a 6-1 run, led by four kills from Bertozzi, to seal the three-set victory.

The Matadors nearly played a complete game, but continued to struggle with service errors, committing 23 to the Royals’ 12. That made each set closer than it should have been. However, CSUN’s offense powered through to reverse the damage done by their serving.

“A lot of the way that you can judge serving is not always by the misses,” Edwards said. “That’s part of the equation, but it’s really like, the ones that are in, are we capitalizing and scoring points? So that point/score percentage is a big part of it.”

Despite all their errors, CSUN capitalized on enough plays to win in three sets, and end the first part of the season in a positive way. After their 10-day break, they’ll have four games left until conference play.

“It’s very big for us to end on a high note,” Tello said. “We have Lewis next weekend, and they’ll be a tough opponent, so we need to really focus and lock in at practice and be ready for that.”

The Matadors will play Lewis University on Saturday, Feb. 24, at home and will host three other teams before they transition to conference play.