The race for first place

Debby von Winckelmann

The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team, sitting in a three-way tie for first place in the MPSF with BYU and Long Beach State, will play its last two conference matches this weekend against UC San Diego on Friday and Long Beach State on Saturday.

If CSUN can win both matches this weekend, the Matadors can get the No. 2 seed into the MPSF tournament, which will mean a home match against the No. 6 seed April 19. In order to win the conference title and No.1 seed into the tournament, CSUN will have to win both matches and hope that BYU loses one of its matches against USC this weekend. The No. 1 seed gets a bye into the semifinals on April 24 at its home site.

The Matadors, who have been ranked second in the nation for most of the last month, recently dropped to No.3 after losing to No. 9 UC Irvine. The loss snapped a record 14-match winning streak. CSUN immediately rebounded, however, and swept the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavillion on April 4.

CSUN heads into this weekend with impressive statistics. In all matches this season, Northridge is second in the conference in hitting percentage at .319 and opponent hitting percentage at .237.

Individually, the Matadors are well-represented in the top ten of several categories of the MPSF statistics. Freshman Cody Loe is third in the conference in hitting percentage at .436 and Kevin McKniff is sixth at .405. Senior setter Travis Bluemling is third in assists, averaging 12.97 per game. Junior Eric Vance is seventh in kills with 408 for the season and averaging 4.53 per game. Vance is also second in the conference in services aces, with 48 total and an average of .53 per game. He is fourth in points, with 487 and a 5.41 average per game. Senior Issac Kneubuhl is fifth in aces with 29 and a 0.38 average per game. Libero Ali’i Keohohou is sixth in the conference in digs with 209 and a 2.49 average per game.

On Friday the Matadors will play UC San Diego, currently unranked and tied for 10th in the conference. UCSD has Jason Spangler who averages 4.54 kills per game and has a season total of 459 which is sixth in the conference. Spangler is also eighth in the MPSF in points with 508.5 and averaging 5.03 per game. The Matadors lead 56-6 in the all-time series .

On Saturday, CSUN will host No. 4 Long Beach State in a must-win match. Long Beach leads the conference in several categories: hitting percentage at .321, assists at an average of 15.31 per game, opponent hitting percentage at .234 and kills at an average of 16.05 per game. The 49ers also boast the conference leader in hitting percentage with Dan Alexander, who averages .500. The Matadors have defeated Long Beach the last siz times they played.

The Matadors will honor seniors Bluemling and Kneubuhl on Saturday before the match.

Both of this weekend’s matches start at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.