The No. 2 Matadors begin the final stretch of conference play on the road this weekend and travel to the Bay Area to face No. 6 Stanford on Friday and Pacific on Saturday.
CSUN (19-3, 12-3 MPSF) plays five of its final seven regular-season games on the road. The Matadors are trying to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, something that would allow them to host the playoffs.
‘We’ve got tough matches ahead of us,’ Head Coach Jeff Campbell said. ‘Right now we are focused on Stanford ‘hellip; In terms of the remaining matches, every single one is going to be tough. We just need to focus and take one point, one game and one match at a time.’
It has been almost a month since the Matadors last played a road game, a 3-0 win at USC on Feb. 28. The Cardinal (14-8, 7-6) had won six matches in a row before getting upended in three sets by Division-II member Cal Baptist on Saturday. Leading the Stanford attack are the trio of juniors Evan Romero and Kawaki Shoji and sophomore Spencer McLachlin.
Pacific, on the other hand, has struggled all season, is 3-19 overall and winless in the MPSF. The Tigers split a pair of matches last weekend. Their win over Juniata snapped a 14-match losing streak. Pacific is led by freshman middle blocker Sean Daley, who averages a team-leading 2.20 kills per set, and junior outside hitter Jason Borchin. Pacific is the only team in the MPSF not ranked in the AVCA Division I-II Top 15.
The Matadors remain in a battle for the top spot in conference with No. 1 UC Irvine and No. 3 Pepperdine. CSUN trails both by half a game. The team who wins the regular-season championship gets to host the playoffs.
‘Hosting the playoffs is huge,’ sophomore Tanner Nua said. ‘Just the home court advantage in general, not having to travel. Last year when we had to travel, we left like three days before we played and it sucks to be in a hotel every night. It’d be nice to be at home, especially with the home crowd on your side.’ CSUN (19-3, 12-3 MPSF)
Last game: Won 3-0 vs. Hope Int. Kills leader:’ Eric Vance, 5.29 Assists leader: Matt Stork, 13.78 Digs leader: Ali’i Keohohou, 2.88
Matador to watch:
Mike Gaudino, junior, outside hitter
The 6-foot-4 Gaudino is third on the team in kills with 196 and second in digs and service aces with 158 and 33 respectively. Gaudino might not get all the headlines, but he has become the Matadors’ version of a utility player, someone who can play anywhere needed. CSUN vs. Stanford (14-8, 7-6)
When: Friday at 7 p.m. Where: Maples Pavilion, Stanford Series Record: Stanford leads CSUN 31-23 Last meeting: Feb 20, Stanford 1 @ CSUN 3
Cardinal to watch:
Evan Romero, junior, opposite hitter
Romero leads Stanford in kills per set (4.49) and needs six more to become the Cardinal’s all-time leader in the rally-scoring era ‘- which was implemented in 2001.The junior opposite hitter will be looking to surpass former Cardinal Curt Toppel, who had 1,143 kills for his career.
CSUN vs. Pacific (3-19, 0-13)
When: Saturday at 7 p.m. Where: Spanos Center, Stockton Series Record: CSUN leads Pacific 18-8 Last meeting: Feb 19, Pacific 0′ @ CSUN 3
Tiger to watch:
Sean Daley, freshman, middle blocker
Although Pacific has struggled this season and stares at an overall record of 3-19, Daley has been impeccable in his first year. He leads the Tigers in total kills with 167. Last week, against Cal Baptist, Daley had 11 kills on 20 attempts.
AVCA Division I-II Top 5
1. UC Irvine (17-3) 2. CSUN (19-3) 3. Pepperdine (14-2) 4. USC (13-6) 5. BYU (13-8)
What did he say?
Matt Stork, CSUN setter, freshman
On the number of wins needed for the Matadors to finish in first place in the MPSF (they’re currently third):
‘If we can win all (seven remaining regular-season games) that would be fantastic, but if we can finish with just one loss, that’d also be pretty good.’ ‘