Matadors take on BYU tonight in MPSF semis

Debby von Winckelmann

The third-seeded CSUN men’s volleyball team travels to Long Beach tonight to take on the second-seeded Brigham Young Cougars in the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament at the Walter Pyramid.

“BYU is a great team,” said head coach Jeff Campbell. “It should be a great battle. I’m looking forward to the match.”

The Matadors are coming off their quarterfinal match 3-0 sweep of the sixth-seeded Stanford Cardinal last Thursday night at the Matadome. Northridge improved to a 23-6 record with the win.

“This is the best regular season in the 33-year history of the program,” Campbell said.

Along with setting a record for the most consecutive wins in a season (14), the Matadors had a record five players named to All-MPSF teams last Friday, led by junior Eric Vance, who was named to the All-MPSF First Team. Senior Issac Knuebuhl, freshman Cody Loe and senior Travis Bluemling were selected to the second team. Sophomore Kevin McKniff received an honorable mention.

Campbell said that voting for the teams comes from other coaches in the league, with coaches unable to vote for their own players.

“It’s a reflection of what other coaches in the league think and it shows the rest of the league thinks very highly of our team,” Campbell said. “Our guys are very proud of it.”

Northridge is ranked fourth nationally heading into the semifinals and BYU is ranked second. The Cougars are sporting a seven-match win streak and an overall record of 24-4. BYU beat UC Irvine 3-1 on Saturday to earn the semifinal berth.

The Matadors have played BYU twice this season on the Cougars’ home court and lost both matches. CSUN was defeated 3-1 on Feb. 1 and 3-2 the following night. The Matadors went on a 14-match winning streak following those losses.

“We’re playing a lot better than the first time we played them,” Campbell said. “I’m really happy we don’t have to play them in their gym.”

As a team, CSUN ranks second nationally in hitting percentage at .326. Individually, Vance ranks fifth nationally in aces (.525), averages 5.33 points per game which ranks eighth nationally and averages 4.47 kills per game for ninth in the country. Bluemling ranks third in assists at 13.10 per game, Loe ranks sixth in hitting percentage at .441, followed by McKniff at a .415 percentage for 14th in the nation. Knuebuhl ranks 18th in aces (.360) and Ali’i Keohohou is 12th in digs at 2.44 per game.

BYU owns the overall record in the series between the two teams, 24-15. The Cougars are led by Russell Holmes and Ivan Perez, with both named to the MPSF First Team. Holmes ranks second in the nation in blocks with a 1.52 average per game and is fifth in the nation in attack percentage at .462. Perez averages 4.31 kills per game, which is 14th in the nation. As a team, BYU ranks fifth nationally in attack percentage at .309.

“As long as the guys can stay in the moment, winning will take care of itself,” Campbell said.

With single elimination, The CSUN-BYU match starts at 8 p.m. The semifinal match between top-seeded Long Beach State and fifth-seeded Pepperdine starts at 5:30 p.m.