By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
The Mustangs had heard whispers around campus, in classrooms and in the cafeteria, that Friday night’s match against UC Merced had become something of a hot-ticket item.
So, it did not come as a total surprise that enough fans to fill one side of the bleachers and most of the other came out to watch The Master’s University men’s volleyball team play its first-ever match.
Sheer numbers, however, could not convey the enthusiasm and rapt attention displayed by those in attendance – excitement that did not wane even after UC Merced completed a hard-fought 3-0 sweep of its host, by scores of 25-17, 31-29 and 25-23.
After the match ended and the teams shook hands, the crowd remained on its feet, cheering a strong debut showing.
“The crowd didn’t know what they were coming to watch,” said Master’s head coach Allan Vince. “I thought the guys pleasantly surprised them with the power and excitement of men’s volleyball. That’s what got the fans going. They saw sheer power and intensity, separated by a thin net.”
Brandon Botdorf had 11 kills to lead Master’s, which pushed the Bobcats in two of the three sets before falling. Service errors, of which the Mustangs made 21, proved to be TMU’s undoing.
Still, Botdorf said he was blown away by TMU’s fans.
“It was electric. I felt like I could jump 10 feet higher because of everyone’s support,” he said.
TMU’s Ezra Moore, a Hart High product, tallied a match-high 33 assists. Christjan Tallara added 10 kills and 6-foot-10 middle blocker Brett Norkus had nine for Master’s, which overcame a late four-point deficit in set two to pull even at 23. The score was tied six more times – each attack and dig met with collective oohs and aahs – before a setting error and a Trevor Jurlina kill gave the Bobcats the win.
During a timeout with the score at 29-all, the crowd chanted “T-M-U,” then howled along to “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.
“I couldn’t even hear the players in the huddle,” Botdorf said. “It was insane.”
But not unexpected. Tallara said Master’s has felt like one big family, so he knew that all the students would show support for its newest program.
He also said the Mustangs did not place any expectations on themselves as far as performance entering the night. But he added that men’s volleyball wants to be part of the school’s strong legacy in athletics.
“We definitely want to be one of those teams,” he said. “We want to train hard and try to compete with the best.”
The Mustangs welcomed one of the best to TMU on Saturday when NAIA No. 8 Menlo College visited for another Golden State Athletic Conference contest. The Oaks beat the Mustangs 3-0, but another strong TMU crowd showed up to watch.
Master’s will host two matches this week: No. 5 Benedictine Mesa on Friday at 6 p.m., and the University of St. Katherine on Saturday at 7 p.m.
This week at TMU
The Mustangs’ No. 1-ranked women’s basketball team (20-1) will host Ottawa Arizona at TMU on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. TMU’s No. 7-ranked men (17-3) will complete the double-header at 7:30, also against Ottawa Arizona.
Master’s baseball, which opened the season last week by taking two out of three games against Marymount California University, will be home again for double-headers Friday (Avila University of Missouri) and Saturday (Corban University of Oregon) this week. First pitch both days is at 11 a.m., with the second game following approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first.
For ticket info and schedules, visit GoMustangs.com.