The sixth-seeded Stanford Cardinal certainly showed that it wasn’t going to be a pushover for the third-seeded CSUN Matador men’s volleyball team in its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinal match at the Matadome on Saturday night.
In the end however, nothing was going to stop CSUN from securing a place in the MPSF semifinals, as they worked for another three-game sweep, as a balanced offensive attack combined with some good siding out enabled the Matadors to take out the Cardinal by scores of 30-26, 30-19 and 30-28.
“It was a good game,” senior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl said. “We had a little trouble in the beginning with passing, but we stuck it out, kept focused and it all fell into place and we started passing better.”
Northridge’s offense was?led by junior outside hitter Eric Vance’s 15 kills. Freshman middle blocker Cody Loe had 13 kills, Kneubuhl had 12 kills and sophomore middle blocker Kevin McKniff had 10 kills. Senior setter Travis Bluemling had 50 set assists and sophomore libero Ali’i Keohohou had 10 digs.
Stanford was led by freshman opposite Spencer McLachlin with 10 kills, sophomore setter Kawika Shoji with 22 assists senor outside hitter Matt Ceran with 11 digs.
Northridge won the first two games, but Stanford fought desperately in game three to avoid elimination. Trailing 7-6, the Cardinal won three straight sets to take a 9-7 lead, forcing a Matador timeout. Northridge got the ball back on a service error and McKniff went off a Stanford blocker to tie the game. Stanford won two of three to stay in front, but the Matadors won the next four sets to take a 14-11 lead, forcing a Stanford timeout. The Matadors struggled to shake off the Cardinal throughout game three, as Northridge briefly led 16-14 only to see Stanford quickly wipe away the deficit. Stanford actually took a 22-21 lead, but Loe pinned junior middle blocker Cameron Christoffers for a kill to tie the game and a Kneubuhl kill gave Northridge the lead, forcing a Stanford timeout.
Stanford though continued to stay in the game, knotting things at 25 on a Romero kill, but Vance swooped in from the back row for a kill to put Northridge back in front and then went off a pair of Stanford blockers for a kill to make it a two-point Matador lead. Stanford made one last run, winning consecutive sets to tie at 27, but Kneubuhl went off a Stanford block for another kill and an attack by sophomore opposite Evan Romero found the net, putting CSUN at match point. A service error kept the Cardinal alive, but Kneubuhl hammered a ball to the right to end the match and Stanford’s season.
“We knew we had to come out and worry about our side,” Loe said.
Game one was similar to game three. Stanford jumped out to a 3-0 lead and led 7-5 when CSUN won the next three sets to take an 8-7 lead. The game was tied at nine when the Matadors won three straight to force a Stanford timeout. Northridge won two straight after the break, but the Cardinal came back with three straight to cut the lead to 15-13 and force a Matador timeout. Northridge got the ball back on a service error, the Cardinal won two more points to get within one, but Northridge won three straight after Stanford’s run to take a 19-15 lead and force a Stanford timeout.
Northridge held a 21-18 lead when Stanford made another run, winning the next three straight to tie the game and force a Matador time out. Romero then went off a Northridge block to give Stanford its first lead since 7-6. The Cardinal lead was short lived, as a service error tied the match, then a ball hit by Romero went long, giving Northridge the lead and a Vance kill made it a two-point Matador lead. Stanford again came back, winning consecutive sets to tie at 24, but Loe sent a ball to Stanford’s back area that just stayed inbounds and Vance went off Stanford blockers on consecutive sets to give CSUN a 27-24 lead and Stanford never threatened again.
Stanford was hardly heard from in game two, as Northridge jumped out to a 6-3 lead and later led 11-7, forcing a Cardinal timeout. The Matadors were just getting started though, as they won four of the next six sets to lead 15-9 and the Matador lead reached 19-12 when Gaudino pinned Jordan Inafuku for a kill, forcing a Stanford time out. Siding out proved to be the difference in game two, as well as the match, where after siding at only 65 percent in game one, Northridge sided out at an 89 percent clip in game two. CSUN sided out at a 75 percent mark in game three.
“That was the difference in the match,” head coach Jeff Campbell said of the sideout percentages. “We sided out real well.”
Northridge now travels to the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State University for a semifinal match with the second-seeded BYU Cougars on Thursday night at 8 p.m.