Volleyball set to close season against USC, Pepperdine

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The ninth-ranked Matadors men’s volleyball team (16-12, 9-11 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) have earned a ticket to post season play. They clinched a spot with their win over 13th-ranked UC Irvine (8-19, 6-14 MPSF) Saturday, combined with 12th ranked Pacific’s (12-16, 6-14) loss to 10th ranked Stanford (11-12, 10-10).

“We are very excited about making the playoffs,” said CSUN Head Coach Jeff Campbell. “This is the toughest conference in the United States for men’s volleyball, so just being in the top two thirds of the conference is very rewarding. We are fighting for a seventh seed to host the eighth seed.”

Before the Matadors start post-season play, they have two regular season home games left on the schedule.

First up will be the 15th ranked USC Trojans (6-21, 3-17 MPSF) tonight at 7 p.m on the Wells Fargo Court. The Matadors then face second ranked Pepperdine (19-2, 18-2 MPSF) Friday at 7 p.m.

“To get home court advantage, we need to come out focused (against USC), not thinking of the playoffs, just think about beating SC,” said Jeff Conover, senior setter. “We crushed them earlier this year (and) did what we do when we win. We passed really well and served really well. When we do that we can beat anyone out there.”

The Matadors shut out the Trojans 3-0 (30-21, 30-25, 30-22) at North Gym on February 25, earning their eighth victory of the season and fifth MPSF win.

The Trojans will march into Northridge not having won more than one match in their last three games, being shut out their last game against seventh ranked Long Beach State (17-8, 11-7). The men of Troy have had a season full of injuries, which may be one of the possible reasons for the teams fall from the top of the MPSF standings.

Their injuries, just to name a few, have included their starting center who is out for a month, along with both outside hitters missing time, one hurting with a torn Labrum in his shoulder and the other with a pulled ligament in his forearm.

“We have our center back and one of our outside hitters is cleared to play, but we are not sure if he’ll play,” said Turhan Douglas, head coach of the Trojans. “With the expectation of last time we played when (CSUN) killed us, the past couple years the games have been heated. We have won a couple and (CSUN) has won their share. We normally play well against Northridge and they play well against us. It’s always a battle.”

The Matadors have a record of 8-4 at home, 6-7 away, and 2-1 on neutral courts. The Matadors lead attackers are Nils Nielson who averages 3.80 kills per game, and Brian Waite averaging 2.89. Waite is also the team’s leading blocker with 117. Two other players are tied behind him with 64 total blocks for the season.

Their leading setter is Conover with a 12.43 average per game. Cary Hanson leads the team with 63 service aces on the season followed by Waite with 23 and Nielsen with 22. The Matadors dig leader is Sebastian Pedraza with an average of 2.35 digs per game.

The Matadors are averaging 270 people per game in 12 contests played at the Northridge campus, a sharp contrast to the average of 969 people at 13 games when the Matadors are on the road.

“We have got a large alumni base coming out to the game,” Campbell said. We’re going to promote the game and hopefully the students will come out and root us to victory.”