Thursday, February 21

Men’s volleyball looks to take on No. 2 CSU Northridge

Senior outside hitter Garrett Muagututia and the Bruins head to Cal State Northridge tonight to face the Matadors, who are averaging two aces per set.

Senior outside hitter Garrett Muagututia and the Bruins head to Cal State Northridge tonight to face the Matadors, who are averaging two aces per set. Maya Sugarman

Now that the zero is gone from the victory column, the men’s volleyball team is looking to win its second consecutive match. But the Bruins will have to do that in hostile territory against the best of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation when they take on No. 2 Cal State Northridge on the road tonight.

The No. 10 Bruins (2-4, 1-2 MPSF) got their first conference win of the season by defeating UC Santa Barbara in five sets Wednesday night. The Bruins are facing a familiar foe, however, in the Matadors (6-0, 3-0), whom they beat in the preseason SAC tournament back in November 2009.

Senior outside hitter Garrett Muagututia, who hit 17 kills and posted three blocks in the win, doesn’t think that early match makes much of a difference for tonight.

“It was a nice win, but we’ve still got to beat them two more times,” Muagututia said.

CSUN knows the Bruins’ style of play, and the team will have to plan for that. “Since they’ve played us, they know our personnel, so we’re going to have to make some adjustments and figure it out as we go,” Muagututia said.

With an array of powerful servers, CSUN usually starts the season as a dominant serving force but suffers from injuries later on in the year.

“CSUN is always the best serving team in the conference in January, sometimes in February, sometimes they hang on till March, and then they pick up a few injuries,” coach Al Scates said. “Right now, nobody can pass them, but eventually what happens is some of them get hurt, so you always want to play them in April or the playoffs. But right now, boy, they’re tough. We’ll just see how good we can pass. If we can pass, we can beat them.”

So far, the Matadors have hit 44 aces and are averaging two aces per set, which ranks second in the conference.

Redshirt sophomore quick hitter Weston Dunlap agrees with Scates and feels that passing is the key to countering CSUN’s serves.

“That’s really up to our passers. We just have to focus. We’ll go over some film and see what we can do.”

Scates also doesn’t put much emphasis on his team’s preseason win. The last time the Bruins played CSUN was before their long break after fall practice.

“That was in November, at the end of our six-week November practice schedule,” Scates said. “We were better then than we are now,”

Because the team will be playing away from Pauley Pavilion, they will have to play with more energy.

“They’re a really good team,” Dunlap said. “We need to bring even more intensity going into their place. The past few times I’ve been to their place it’s just been a crazy game so we’re going to get focused going into this game.”

Muagututia sees improvement in both squads and is looking forward to the match.

“We beat them in the preseason, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Muagututia said. “They’ve gotten better, and I think we’ve gotten better, so it should be a good match.”

In addition to a corps of powerful servers, CSUN possesses a duo of senior middle blockers, Jacek Ratajczak and Kevin McKniff, who are second and third, respectively, in the conference in hitting percentage.

Levitan makes first appearance

UCLA’s freshman outside hitter Chen Levitan, who played for the U-21 Israeli Junior National Team, made his first appearance as a Bruin Wednesday night, starting the third set but eventually playing mostly as a serving substitute.

“I like his serve,” Scates said. “He came in and hit the ball hard, and I think he has a good arm.”

Levitan had two digs and a block assist. Both of his swings resulted in hitting errors. He had no aces and no service errors. Levitan earned some playing time because of a great practice earlier in the week.

“I want to give him more of a chance, because he had his best practice ever on Monday,” Scates said.

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