No. 1 Matadors host Bruins

Victor Corona

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The Matadors have reached the midway point of the season and they sit atop the national polls and holding a share of the conference lead with No. 2 UC Irvine. CSUN (16-3, 11-2 MPSF), which is in the midst of a season-high seven-game homestand, will turn its attention to No.11 UCLA Wednesday night. The Bruins are the fifth consecutive ranked opponent CSUN has played.

Rankings don’t seem to mean much to the Matadors. Against the five teams, all of them top-10 nationwide, CSUN dominated. The Matadors swept three of those opponents and only lost three sets in the span.

‘By no means are we a great team yet,’ CSUN coach Jeff Campbell said. ‘We have a lot to work on. Our blocking needs to get better, our defense needs to get better and we need to get more consistent with our serving, which is fairly inconsistent at this point.’

UCLA came into the season ranked No. 2, but has struggled to an 8-11 overall record and a 4-8 record in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play. Leading the way for the Bruins are senior opposite hitter Sean O’Malley and redshirt freshman Jack Polales. The combo leads the Bruin attack in kills per set (3.65). Although the Bruins lead the overall series, CSUN has won the last four meetings.

‘We love beating UCLA,’ CSUN outside hitter Eric Vance said. ‘We are going to go out there and play our hardest and it will be fun to beat them again.’

UCLA might be struggling this season record-wise, but they’re still a force. Last week, in a loss, the Bruins took the No. 2 Anteaters to five sets.’

‘To some people that might have been a surprise, but to me it was not,’ Campbell said. ‘UCLA is a great volleyball team and they are capable of playing great at any point.’

Date:‘ Wednesday

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: The Matadome, Northridge

Last meeting: Jan. 14, CSUN 3 @ UCLA 0

Series: UCLA leads 55-11

Interesting fact: Wednesday’s match-up will mark the third time the teams have faced each other this season. The first game came at the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational and the second at Pauley pavilion. The Matadors have cruised to victories both times.
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Matador to watch

Matt Stork, freshman, setter

In his first collegiate game against UCLA, Stork had 49 assists, five digs and one serving ace. The 6-foot-4 Stork is enjoying a great freshman season setting the No.1 Matadors’ front of attack, averaging 13.89 assists per set. Stork had a season-high 81 assists against Pepperdine, which was the No.1 team before CSUN overtook the spot. His performance earned him Player of the Week honors.

Bruin to watch

Jack Polales, freshman, opposite hitter

Polales missed the first match-up against the Matadors, but was in the rotation for the game at Pauley Pavilion. Not only that, but he led the Bruin attack with 13 kills. Polales, a freshman from Illinois, leads the No. 11 Bruins in kills per set (3.65). Last week, against No. 2 UC Irvine, he pounded out a career-high 22 kills in taking the Anteaters to five sets and almost pulling off an the upset.’

That’s what he said:

Tanner Nua, CSUN opposite hitter

On what the Matadors need to do to remain the nation’s top team:

‘We need to be more consistent. We need to keep playing our game and if we improve the way we have been lately, I don’t see anyone that can stop us.’