Matadors go up against America’s No. 1

Victor Corona

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After a dominant 5-0 homestand, the No. 4 Matadors (11-2, 7-2 MPSF) travel to Malibu for a midweek match-up against the No. 1 team in the nation.

Pepperdine moved to the top spot this week after beating No. 9 UCLA and No. 2 UC Irvine. The previous No.1, Penn State, lost its first game of the season on Friday.

‘Obviously, the ranking doesn’t really matter,’ CSUN sophomore opposite hitter Tanner Nua said. ‘Penn State lost to a team that wasn’t ranked (Loyola Chicago), so we shouldn’t look at the rankings, we should look at them (Pepperdine) as the team to beat. They are first in our league, so that’s where we want to be. We want to host the playoffs.’

The match will not only feature two of the nation’s top teams, but it will also showcase four of the country’s best players. The Waves have the dynamic duo of sophomore setter Kasey Crider and senior opposite hitter Paul Carroll while the Matadors counter with their great tandem of freshman setter Matt Stork and senior outside hitter Eric Vance.

Carroll and Stork shared Co-Player of the Week honors this week. Carroll is also the National Player of the Week.

‘I always watch Paul Carroll,’ Stork admitted. ‘I used to go to the matches because I live fairly close to Pepperdine. I was always like, ‘wow that guy can serve. That guy can hit the ball hard.’ Now, hopefully I can stop him.’

The match against the Waves (9-1, 8-1) is the first of a crucial two-match road trip for the Matadors. They play at No. 5 USC on Saturday. The last time CSUN visited Firestone Fieldhouse, home of the Waves, they were swept 3-0.

‘Sometimes, it is tough playing in their gym,’ CSUN Head Coach Jeff Campbell said. ‘They got low lights and the look of the gym is a little bit different, but I don’t want to make that an excuse. Last year, they played better and they deserved to get that 3-0 win.’

Date: Tonight
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Firestone Fieldhouse, Malibu
Series: Pepperdine leads 46-17
Last meeting: Pepperdine 2 @ CSUN 3, March. 12, 2008
Interesting fact: The match features both Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s Co-Players of the Week: the Waves’ Paul Carroll and Matador Matt Stork.

Matador to watch:
Eric Vance, senior, outside hitter

The senior All-American loves playing against top teams. Last week against No. 7 Stanford, he had a match-high 28 kills and 14 digs, including crucial kills down the stretch in sets one and four. Vance, the captain and lone senior on the team, has made it a point to teammates to look for him in crucial situations. The Matadors, playing at a place where they were swept the last time around, better listen.

Wave to watch:
Paul Carroll, senior, opposite hitter

The 6-9 Carroll is the reigning Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II Men’s National Player of the Week. He received the award after helping the Waves defeat two nationally-ranked opponents, No. 9 UCLA and No. 2 UC Irvine.’ In the two matches, the Australia native combined for 56 kills and 18 digs. For the season, Carroll leads the nation in kills per game (6.31).

What did he say?

Tanner Nua, CSUN opposite hitter
On the challenge of battling the No. 1 team in the nation:

‘Every match is just as important as the next, but this match would be a huge motivational game for us and it’d be a nice win for us. It’d mean more than others just because they are ahead of us in the league and that would put us in a tie.’