Saturday’s match up with the USC Trojans at the Lyon Center carried playoff implications for the CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team, though those implications weren’t as big as they could’ve been, much to CSUN’s delight.
With BYU knocking out Pacific out of the Mountain-Pacific Sports Federation playoff picture with a two game sweep over the weekend, all that was left for the Matadors and Trojans to determine Saturday night was who would host a play-in game between the two teams Wednesday night.
Sure enough, the Matadors weren’t about to let the opportunity to play an elimination game in front of their own fans pass them by, as they solidified the seventh seed in the MPSF and, with it, the right to host Wednesday’s playoff matchup with USC with a four-game victory over the Trojans by scores of 30-27, 31-33, 30-18, 30-27.
“That was a must-win for us,” junior setter Travis Bluemling said. “It’s a good way to go in (to playoffs), with a win.”
In game one, CSUN jumped out to an early 9-5 lead, only to see USC win seven of the next nine sets to take a 12-11 lead and force a CSUN timeout. The Trojans later led 18-14 and 22-18 until Northridge won the next two sets, the last when freshman oustside hitter Mike Gaudino won a net joust with a Trojan blocker. USC still led into the latter stages, but CSUN eventually caught USC at 25. McKniff later stuffed a Trojan attack to give CSUN a 27-26 lead and Northridge got the remaining three points it needed to win the match.
The Matadors got on the board first in game two on a serve error, but the Trojans won the next four sets to take a 4-1 lead. CSUN came back with three in a row to tie the game at four, but USC followed with three in a row and six of seven sets overall to lead 10-5 and force a CSUN timeout. The Matadors finally caught the Trojans at 18 when senior opposite Dan Rhodes went off a Trojan block and a Juan Figueroa hit went long.
Both teams traded the next ten sets to stay tied. A stuff block by Andrew Vernon and Jimmy Killian put USC back in front 24-23, but freshman setter Sean Pederson sent a vicious spike into open Trojan territory and USC failed to get the ball over the net on the next set, giving CSUN a 25-24 lead, but USC tied the game on a Matador hitting error and a Trojan roof block gave USC the lead at 26-25, forcing a CSUN timeout.
A Figueroa ace serve widened the lead, but Figueroa sent his next serve into the net and McKniff and Rhodes denied Killian’s hit to tie the game at 27. The match eventually went into sudden death, and a stuff block by Pederson and senior middle blocker James Lischer put CSUN at game point, but a Matador attack error kept USC alive, gave game two to the Trojans.
CSUN though didn’t let the setback deter them, and they started out by winning the first three sets to game three. The Matadors scored three more consecutive points following a serve error to lead 6-1 and force USC’s second timeout. Northridge led 8-2 until the Trojans won five of the next seven sets to cut the lead to 9-7, but CSUN would win game three 30-18.
The Trojans weren’t one to lie down for long, as they led throughout game four until Rhodes tied the game at 21, then Gaudino gave Northridge the lead. A Trojan hitting error and a Lischer kill completed a 4-0 run that gave CSUN a 24-21 lead. With CSUN up 29-27, Eric Vance put one into open Trojan territory to seal the game and the match.
“It’s a good team win,” junior Libero Isaac Kneubuhl said. “We showed that even if we’re down, we can fight back and get a win.”
Game time for Wednesday’s MPSF playoff matchup with the USC Trojans is set for 7 p.m. at the Matadome.
“I feel real good going into the playoffs,” Campbell said. “I’m really looking forward to starting the playoffs.”