This week is the start of the toughest stretch of the season for the Matadors as they host No. 6 Long Beach State tonight and then travel to La Jolla to take on No. 13 UC San Diego Friday night.
The next six matches for No. 1 CSUN will feature six of the top 13 teams in the nation, with five of them coming on the road.
“They are real critical because we need a lot of momentum going into that tough stretch of away games, and we need a boost of confidence before we go away on the road for a while,” senior middle blocker Kevin McKniff said of the importance of the back-to-back matches this week.
The Matadors suffered their second loss of the season Friday night against Pepperdine, and it was also the second loss in five matches at the Matadome. They rebounded with an upset road victory over then-No. 2 Stanford.
“We are going to have to play well … serve and pass well,” said CSUN head coach Jeff Campbell. “In our two losses we’ve had… that’s where we really been lacking. We have missed way too many serves, and our passing has been pretty erratic. So hopefully we will get that going.”
The two matches against LBSU and UC San Diego will end the season series against both teams. In mid January the Matadors kicked off league play in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) with sweeps over both programs.
The 49ers come into the match against the Matadors winners of three straight wins, including a road sweep of Pepperdine.
“They are a great team we are going to have to contend with,” Campbell said. “Their opposite (Dean Bittner) is one of the best opposite in the league … he is capable of taking over a match and their middles are good, the setting is good, the libero is good and their outsides are good.”
After their match against the 49ers, the Matadors travel to the RIMAC Arena in La Jolla, a place where they had great success winning 30 of 34 matches. The Tritons have struggled, winning only one MPSF match having spent most the early part of conference play on the road.
“It’s definitely an advantage to have seen them … getting an opportunity to run their sets in practice and really key on what they are going to do so we have better chance to beat them,” senior outside hitter Theo Edwards said of playing LBSU and UC San Diego for the second time this season.