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Record of Matadors Takes a Back Seat to Moral Victories

March 15, 2000

Another five-game match against a highly ranked opponent. Another two-point loss.

It could describe only the Cal State Northridge men's volleyball team.

Competitive, but not quite good enough, the Matadors took another talented team to the brink before losing.

Their most recent near-upset came last Wednesday in a five-game loss to USC, ranked No. 3.

The Trojans won the final game, 21-19.

Eckhard Walter, a 6-10 sophomore opposite hitter, had a match-high 32 kills in 54 attempts.

"We're bummed, but we played the best ball we've played in three years," said Coach Jeff Campbell of Cal State Northridge.

"Either team could have won. We swung for the win and some [USC] guy in the back row did some flipper thing and dug the ball up. Then they blocked us. It was pretty crazy."

The Matadors nearly upset top-ranked Pepperdine two weeks ago, falling in the fifth game by a 16-14 score. Northridge again held a late lead, but Pepperdine was able to eke out a victory.

"I keep telling everyone this is a long-term process," said Campbell, in his third year as coach. "We're not going to turn this thing around in one day. There's no pill to take."

Better news might be on the horizon.

The Matadors (5-10, 3-8 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) have completed the difficult part of their schedule.

Five of their last eight MPSF matches are against teams with losing overall records.

"Our road gets a lot easier from here on out," Campbell said.

*

Pepperdine has played surprisingly well without George Roumain, two-time national player of the year.

The Waves' career leader in kills graduated last season, but Pepperdine has been ranked among the top three teams for five consecutive weeks.

Scott Wong, a junior outside hitter, has played spectacular defense and Andre Breuer, a transfer from Hawaii, has helped replace Roumain's offensive pop.

Interim Coach Jeff Stork, taking over for a season while Marv Dunphy assists the U.S. national team, has also played a key role.

An assistant coach last season, Stork has eased the Waves' transition from a one-man show to a more diverse attack.

"Coaching is quite a bit more than having [playing] experience and a few good stories to tell them," he said. "There's a true art to coaching that I'm learning to do. I think there's a few masters out there and I'm certainly not there yet."

But the Waves (14-2, 11-1 in MPSF play), ranked No. 2, are responding to Stork, a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic team.

"He played with the best at one time," Wong said. "That's who you learn the most from, guys that have been there. They can give you a lot of tips to move your game up."

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