The blocks of success

Fresno State men’s volleyball team and other fans celebrate as the University of Buffalo defeats the University of Colorado in three sets. The win over Colorado, the only team to defeat the Bulldogs before the semifinal against Illinois, put the Bulldogs in first place in their bracket.
Joseph Vasquez / The Collegian

Dallas — Four years ago, Fresno State was No. 1 in the nation.

In 2008, they came one game away from competing for that title again.

Over three days, the men’s club volleyball team played eight games total, losing just two – Colorado on day one of the tournament and Illinois in sudden death elimination.

Outside hitter Brett Gillen blocks a ball during a match at the National Campus Championship Series in Dallas. Gillen had 10.5 blocks total.
Joseph Vazquez / The Collegian

In the sudden-death elimination Saturday, the Bulldogs advanced to the third round, but came up short against No. 1-seeded Illinois.

“I’m pleased with the way we played against Illinois,” outside hitter Jake Wiens said. “We knew we wanted to get to play Illinois, but couldn’t look over any team in the process.”

The Bulldogs fought until the end, using every ounce of energy they had in the final game.

“Our team played toe-to-toe,” coach Brian Tsukimura said. “I’m proud of these guys. Every player stepped up and played the best they have all season.”

Illinois lost to Lakeland College in the finals, while Fresno State tied with the University of Central Florida for third place.

There was no lack of fan support during the match ups, either. Teams from Sacramento State and UC Davis gathered together to cheer on a fellow California team.

Even players from Santa Clara, the team the Bulldogs beat earlier in the day, stood and watched.

The Bulldogs lost only five sets over the weekend, which included two to Illinois, one to Santa Clara and two in the loss to Colorado.

Tsukimura said the loss to Colorado was somewhat positive because it was a wake-up call.

“That loss ignited a fire under our butts,” Wiens said. “We are a slow-starting team and in the mornings, we have a tough time.”

Up until playing Santa Clara on Saturday, the Bulldogs had won every first set they played, usually by a decent margin.

Outside hitter Jake Wiens dominated this weekend and took First Team All-American.

Leading the team in kills was outside hitter, Kit Maddox.

Maddox, who received an honorable mention recognition from the tournament, had 80 kills and 26 digs.

Wiens was right behind him with 77 kills and 36 digs.

The final day of play included three games for Fresno State against Arizona State, Santa Clara and Illinois.

All the games were close in score and left little room for error on both sides.

In the second set against Arizona, the Bulldogs led by no more than three points throughout. The final score in that set was 25-23.

“We led in the beginning of the ASU game and they never caught up,” Tsukimura said. “Everybody had fun and we showed we could compete.”

In the Santa Clara game, Fresno State lost the first set, but the Bulldogs came back and won sets two and three.

Although the Bulldogs are disappointed that they didn’t earn the 2008 title, they still have a medal to show for their efforts.

The No. 3 rank is the highest the Bulldogs have been since 2004.

“It was a roller coaster ride,” Wiens said. “But we won when we needed to.”

Game Scores
The Bulldogs played eight games from Thursday, April 10 to Saturday, April 12 and lost only twice.

Buffalo: 25-21, 25-22
Colorado: 25-11, 22-25, 8-15
Michigan: 25-13, 25-23

Virginia Tech: 25-17, 25-20
JMU: 25-18, 25-19

ASU: 25-16, 25-23
Santa Clara: 20-25, 25-20, 15-12
Illinois: 26-28, 18-25

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