After going 16-6 in league, the No. 2 Matadors men’s volleyball team now gets ready for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. Northridge goes into the tourney as the third seed after finishing behind No. 3 Pepperdine and No. 1 UC Irvine in the standings. They will host BYU on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will be blogged live at the Matador Score.
The Matadors have already beaten the Cougars, the sixth seed, this season. Northridge swept BYU twice in early March. Both of those games were also played at the Matadome.
‘They are playing much better now than they were playing when we played them (the first time),’ Head Coach Jeff Campbell said. ‘They lost a lot of players from last year’s team and sometimes it takes a little while before they really acclimate and get a starting lineup of six. But I think they are playing real good volleyball right now and this is going to be a real tough match-up for us.’
Back on March 5 and 6, the Matadors’ broom-cleaning of the Cougars was closer than the score indicated as three of the six sets CSUN won were by a score of 30-28. Leading the way ‘- as he has all season ‘- was senior Eric Vance, who combined for 28 kills and 11 digs in the two wins.
‘Even though we swept them twice this season, the score didn’t show how much of a competition it was,’ junior Kevin McKniff said.
CSUN has earned its eighth consecutive tournament berth and a 12th overall trip to the eight-team competition. Under the direction of Campbell, the Matadors are 4-7 in the tournament.
The Matadors will be looking to avenge getting swept by these same Cougars last year in the semifinals of the MPSF Championships that were held in Long Beach. With a win Saturday, the Matadors will have gone 3-0 against BYU in 2009. The Cougars went 3-0 vs. Northridge in 2008.
‘We really want to beat them because for the past two years they’ve knocked us out of the playoffs,’ junior Jacek Ratajczak said. ‘I really feel that it’s our time to do that to them.’
The win would also earn the Matadors back-to-back berths into the MPSF Championships for the first time since 1993. Over the past three seasons, the Matadors have been tough to beat at the Matadome, going 36-7 and never losing a postseason match at home.
‘It is always awesome to host games,’ Vance said. ‘I love playing at home. We have great fans, a great atmosphere ‘hellip; so it’s definitely to our advantage when we play at home.’
The Cougars finished the season by defeating No. 3 Pepperdine (the tournament’s second seed) 3-1 at Malibu. Leading the way for BYU was junior opposite hitter Kent Tuttle, who had 22 kills, while outside hitter Andrew Steward added 18. Redshirt freshman Futi Tavana had a team-high six blocks.
Since being swept by the Matadors twice, the Cougars have defeated three of the top teams in the nation. They got the best of No. 6 Penn State, No. 1 UC Irvine and the Waves (on Friday). During the regular season, Steward led the Cougars in kills with 391 (3.62 per set) while Tavana, playing in his first full season, led the team in blocks with 166.
The Matadors are coming off their best hitting-percentage-wise game this season (.598), which was obtained in a 3-0 sweep of UC Santa Barbara on Friday. CSUN was able to pound out 54 kills in 82 attacks with just five errors. They will need similar hitting on Saturday to prevail against a BYU team that will be looking to spoil the Matadors’ season for a yet another year.