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The ninth ranked men’s volleyball team traveled into warmer weather last weekend to play University of California Santa Barbara on Friday, Jan. 25, followed by Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Jan. 26. The Flyers battled to a five-set loss against the 10th ranked Gauchos but then rallied to beat the 11th ranked Matadors in their second five-set match of the weekend.
The Friday night matchup opened with the Flyers jumping to an immediate five-point lead and maintaining the margin throughout the entire opening set. Lewis came out with a .600 hitting percentage, earning 12 kills on 20 attempts with no errors while forcing UCSB to make seven attack errors. However, the Flyers couldn’t find the same rhythm in the second set, allowing the Gauchos to take advantage of a 9-1 run midway through the game, leading to a 15-25 loss. In the third set, both teams were exchanging leads until the Gauchos executed the final three points to earn the win at 25-22, but the Flyers led the majority of the fourth and pulled it out 25-22 to force a fifth set. While redshirt senior outside hitter Jake Walenga led the Flyers in momentum kills late in the fifth, they were unable to recover from back-to-back blocks that allowed the Gauchos to take the lead and run away with the five-set victory.
Despite Friday’s heartbreaker, the team kept their composure and prepared for a quick turnaround. The Flyers defeated Cal State Northridge with a total of 16 blocks throughout the match. The team’s defensive wall at the net was complimented by an aggressive offense. Senior outside hitter Julian Moses led the offense with a season-high 15 kills followed by true freshman Connor Pallmann who added 11 kills on the right side. Moses also tied redshirt sophomore Tyler Mitchem in blocks with five each.
Lewis dropped the first set 25-23 but fought through a deficit to take the second set 25-23 with a hitting percentage of .400. The Flyers took advantage of a 10-4 run to win the third set 25-19 after the game was tied at 15, but the Matadors forced a fifth set after executing late in the fourth in a 25-21 victory. Although CSUN led at the eight-point switch in the final set, Moses helped the team pull ahead with a monster kill and then sealed the lead with an ace. Junior Ryan Coenen finished the match with back-to-back kills.
According to Moses, the team keyed in on some tactical elements they could execute better after the weekend’s tough loss that helped them recover despite the short turnaround. “We talked about some systematic breakdowns we had and what needed to be done to get closer to playing the level of volleyball we are capable of,” Moses said.
With MIVA play just around the corner, including matches against three teams in the top 15, Moses has no doubt that the team’s chemistry and culture will push them to be top conference competitors. “Our culture is the foundation of most of our success,” Moses said. “Every player looks to contribute whether it be through play on the court or their dialogue with the guys on the floor.”
After the weekend at home, the Flyers travel to St. Charles, Mo. on Friday, Feb. 8, to take on Lindenwood and then travel back to Illinois to play Quincy on Saturday, Feb. 9, In their first conference matchups of the year.