The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team will open up MPSF Tournament play with a quarterfinal match against the Stanford Cardinal at the Matadome on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Northridge is ranked fourth in the nation and is seeded third in the tournament. Stanford enters the quarterfinals as the number six seed and tied for the sixth ranking with UCLA..
CSUN heads into the tournament coming off a disappointing loss to Long Beach State last Saturday. The 3-0 defeat was the first time the Matadors have been swept since Jan. 12 at Pepperdine. The loss also denied the Matadors a share of the conference title and dropped them in the national rankings from their No. 3 spot.
“It was a tough loss to take,” said head coach Jeff Campbell. “The guys wanted it so bad. They played hard, but the other team played better.”
The Matadors (22-6, 17-5 MPSF) have made 11 MPSF tournament appearances, with this being CSUN’s seventh consecutive appearance. Northridge has made it out of the quarterfinals three times. This is the first time that the Matadors will play a quarterfinal match at home. If CSUN can make it to the semifinals, it will be its first appearance since 2005 when it lost to Pepperdine 3-1.
Campbell said his team is ready to go and has been playing well.
“We’re looking forward to playing Stanford at home,” Campbell said.
The Matadors are hitting .323 as a team and averaging 15.34 kills per game. Their hitting percentage is third best in the nation.
Individually, junior Eric Vance leads the CSUN offense with an average of 4.46 kills per game, which ranks 10th in the nation. Vance also leads the team in aces with 49, ranked sixth in the nation (.510) and leads the team in points, averaging 5.30 per game which is eighth nationally. Senior Issac Kneubuhl averages 3.72 kills per game and ranks 20th in the nation in aces (.349). Red shirt freshman Cody Loe averages 3.30 kills per game and hits at .438, which is seventh in the nation. Senior Travis Bluemling is third nationally in assists, at 12.99 per game and sophomore Ali’i Keohohou averages 2.41 digs per game.
CSUN leads the series with Stanford this season, wining two of the three matches. Stanford took a non-conference match 3-1 at the UCSB Elephant Bar Invitational Tournament in Santa Barbara on Jan. 4. The Matadors swept Stanford twice, at the Matadome on Jan. 24 and in Stanford on Feb. 9.
“We know Stanford is capable of good volleyball,” Campbell said. “For us to be in a position to win, we have to focus on us and what we need to do to win.”
The Cardinal (17-10 overall/12-10 MPSF) is ranked sixth in the nation and makes their first tournament appearance since 2005. Sophomore Evan Romero leads the Cardinal offensive attack with an average of 4.49 kills per game, which ranks sixth in the conference. Sophomore Kawika Shoji averages 10.41 assists per game and has a team-high 27 aces. As a team, the Cardinal are hitting .258 and averaging 14.88 kills per game.
“I’m really excited,” Campbell said. “We have a great team.”
If the Matadors are successful on Saturday, they will play the winner of the match between BYU and either eighth-seeded USC or seventh-seeded UC Irvine. The semifinals will be played at Long Beach State.