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Warriors look to reverse losing trend vs. Northridge


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POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2009

The hole is deep. Deeper than it has ever been.

               

     

 

CS NORTHRIDGE (6-0, 3-0 MOUNTAIN PACIFIC SPORTS FEDERATION) AT HAWAII (1-6, 0-4)

        When: 7 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday
       

TV: KFVE, Ch. 5

       

Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

       

       

And the season is less than a month old.

Being winless this early in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation is a huge concern. Hawaii has never started 0-4 in 30 previous years of intercollegiate men's volleyball play, and playing catch-up is not going to be easy, not when the Warriors are trying to end a six-match skid against undefeated and second-ranked Cal State Northridge tomorrow.

Ask CSUN coach Jeff Campbell about the season and his response is one of casual confidence. It's not difficult when your 6-0 team is off to the best start in program history.

“;We've played pretty well and have been firing on all cylinders,”; he said. “;Ball control is good and our serving has caused some problems. We've been able to keep teams out of system.”;

Translation?

The second-ranked Matadors have dropped just four sets while playing five of their first six matches on the road. CSUN is bombing away from the service line, leading the MPSF in aces (1.91 per set).

Senior Eric Vance is one of the most effective hitters in the MPSF, averaging 5.23 kills per set. Sophomore opposite Tanner Nua continues to grow into his 6-foot-8 body and is coming off a career-best .526 night during which he put down a match-high 13 kills in a sweep of UC Santa Barbara last Saturday.

Freshman setter Matt Stork—son of three-time Olympic setter Jeff—has his team hitting at a .305 clip.

“;He's lived up to all expectations,”; Campbell said of Matt Stork.

Adding to the ensemble cast is junior middle Kevin McKniff, second in the MPSF in hitting (.481) and eighth in blocks, and junior libero Ali'i Keohohou, fourth in digs (2.86 dps). Bolstering CSUN's offensive threat is junior hitter Mike Gaudino (2.45 kps, 11 aces).

On paper, the only advantage the Warriors may have in the matches tomorrow and Saturday is the homecourt. Hawaii holds a 21-3 edge in matches against CSUN in Honolulu and has won the past five in the Stan Sheriff Center.

The young Warriors—who figure to start two freshmen and a sophomore—could use a win ... badly.

They are coming off a disappointing 0-2 road trip to BYU, where they took only one set off the Cougars. They also saw a 28-26 lead in Set 2 on Friday turn into a 30-28 loss, part of being swept by BYU.

Serving has been a focus of Hawaii's practices this week, on both sides of the net. The Warriors were out-aced by the Cougars last week 15-1 and had a combined 34 service errors in the two losses.

“;We know that Northridge serves really well and they have a lot of guys who can go back there and rip it,”; UH senior libero/serving specialist Mike China said. “;We know we missed too many of our serves at BYU and that was definitely part of our problem.”;

The Warriors have shown that when they've passed well they've been more than competitive.

“;We're really good when we're in system—our attack is tough to read,”; UH senior setter Sean Carney said. “;Serving and passing have been issues at times. We need to settle down and keep competing hard.”;

Campbell said it didn't matter what the Warriors' record was. The one given in the conference is that there is no easy match.

“;All I need to know about Hawaii is we are 1-5 in our last three trips out there,”; he said. “;Every team in the league is good. No one can take a night off and expect to win.”;