Entering the contest ranked ninth and coming off two straight victories over USC and No. 10 Pacific, the Matador Men’s Volleyball team set out to make it three in a row.
Standing in their path was the Cardinal of Stanford, winners of four of their last five matches, including a shutout over seventh ranked Long Beach State. They proved to be too much for CSUN, winning in four games.
Friday night’s contest marked the 43rd meeting in both schools’ history. Although the Cardinal has the overall edge with an all-time record now of 30-13, the Matadors had won the last five meetings including the prior two this season.
In the first game of the match, the Matadors looked to control the tempo, jumping out to an early 8-3 lead, causing Stanford to take a timeout. Immediately following the timeout, Stanford managed to rally back and claim its first lead of the night, ultimately pulling out the first game 30-27.
It was in the second game that the Matadors found their Achilles heel, committing seven service errors. Regardless, they somehow found a way to keep it close, reaching a 27-27 tie. However, the Matadors ultimately lost the last three points, falling again 30-27.
The third game however, was a much different story. Facing elimination, the Matadors desperately needed an answer. During a crucial moment, midway through game three, setter Jeff Conover saved the ball from going out of bounds and managed to perfectly place the no-look set to senior outside hitter Nils Nielsen for the crushing kill.
The crowd anxiously started to come alive. Nielsen went on to record a game-and season-high, with 21 kills the home team finally took a game, 30-27.
Heading into the fourth game, where it was imperative for Northridge to triumph, Stanford proved to be too tough. They defeated the Matadors 30-28, to take the best of five competition in four games, confirming their lofty position in the polls. The loss dropped CSUN to 6-9 in conference play and 9-10 overall.
The match itself was very close and presumably could have gone either way, although a season-high 25 service errors plagued the Matadors’ chances.
“We are a Jekyll and Hyde team when it comes to serving,” said head coach Jeff Campbell.
“Serving has been an ongoing issue for us,” Nielsen said. “We somehow find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
On several occasions during the contest, the two teams underwent lengthy points, which in most cases Stanford won.
“These ridiculously long rallies were big momentum killers,” Nielsen said.
Campbell spent thirty minutes talking to his team after the game, making it very clear that he wanted his guys to “be upset about the loss but use it as motivation to prepare for upcoming Santa Barbara,” who they will meet March 9 at home.
Campbell made it clear that his team will spend a lot of their practice time working on defensive strategies.
“Besides serving effectively, blocking will play a major factor against Santa Barbara,” Campbell said. They have a lot of height.”
The Matadors will definitely have their hands full, as the Gauchos are coming off a six game winning streak.
At least one player is still sure of their ability as a team.
“We have a solid nucleus of players who really want to win,” Nielsen said.
Other notable performances in Friday night’s contest included junior Cary Hansen, who had 16 kills and 11 digs. Also, red-shirt freshman, Isaac Kneubhul, from Hawaii, had 12 kills, sophomore James Lischer recorded 12 kills, and senior Jeff Conover registered 63 assists.