CSUN to face Stanford in play-in game tonight

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The CSUN men’s volleyball team (17-13, 10-12 MPSF) will host Stanford (11-14, 10-12 MPSF) in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament play-in match, Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

The Matadors ended the regular season on senior night with a 3-1 home loss (30-26, 25-30, 30-25, 30-22) to the MPSF conference title winner Pepperdine (21-2, 20-2 MPSF) who has won three titles over the last four seasons.

“Pepperdine is a very good team,” CSUN Head Coach Jeff Campbell said. “They played very well tonight. This wasn’t our best match. We need to be more consistent and that’s where they were stronger than us tonight.”

The Matadors finished the evening hitting .123 and a dismal .030 in the fourth frame of the evening, compared to Pepperdine who finished the evening hitting .285.

The Matadors started off the evening by taking a commanding lead in game one, and a Cary Hanson serve made the score 17-10.

Pepperdine then captured the next four points before senior Nils Nielsen was able to get a kill, sending the ball off multiple Pepperdine players and to the ground, giving the Matadors a slim 18-14 lead.

“They’re a blocking team,” Nielsen said. “They are big (and) had some nice blocks that make us have more shots.”

Nielsen finished the night leading the team with 16 kills, followed by Brian Waite with 15 and James Lischer’s 12.

Pepperdine pulled the score even at 21 with the action going back and forth. The Matadors final lead of game one came when Lischer went into the air to earn a kill and make the score 23-22.

The Matadors were only able to hold off game point one time pulling within 29-26 before an Isaac Kneubuhl serve was returned to the Matadors with a tip by Pepperdine that fell in front of the out stretched arms of CSUN players, earning Pepperdine a game one victory.

“We just did not play well tonight as a team,” said senior Jeff Conover, who finished with 48 assists and six digs. “I was off so it caused other people to be off. We did not play our game.”

In game two, the Matadors started off hot as they did in game one pushing the score to 17-10 thanks in part to two Waite service aces.

The Matadors kept pressing the play with Nielsen earning two kills and the Matadors continued to hold the Waves down. After a Pepperdine kill attempt landed in the net, the Matadors were in control of the game at 22-14.

The Waves could not get any closer than 26-22 and a Hanson serve returned by Pepperdine was killed by Lischer making the score 28-22.

The two teams traded points with Waite killing the ball off a Pepperdine player, sending the ball into the stands, ending game two and giving the Matadors the win.

“I give Northridge credit,” said Pepperdine head coach Marv Dunphy. They were serving well. We cut down on some of our errors (in the third and fourth game). I just wish we played better throughout, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. We can learn from this. You don’t have to only learn from losing. I think you can learn from winning too, so I’m pleased with the results but we need to put more movement in our offense.”

To start game three, the Matadors played Pepperdine close, keeping the Waves on their heels. With the Matadors leading 9-8, Pepperdine began to look like a different team, as the Waves caught and blew by the Matadors and stretched their lead to as much as 17-11.

Hanson put a kill off the out-stretched arm of a Pepperdine player to earn them their last point of game three. On the next point, Waite’s serve went wide and the Waves served to the Matadors promptly killing their return for game point, giving Pepperdine a two games to one lead.

“Overall their game was much better than ours tonight,” Campbell said. “Their setting, their hitting, they have the best outside hitter in the country in Sean Rooney so that makes a difference. What this (loss) means to our team is we’re not the best team we could possibly be at this point. We still have things to work on.”

In game four, Pepperdine jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the Matadors.

The Matadors were able to battle back, pulling within two at 11-9, but were never able to completely catch up. Pepperdine continued extending its lead to 19-12 and then 27-20 after a Matador kill.

The Waves then served for game point and the Matadors were temporarily spared when the serve went long. However, with the ball in hand, Matt Bellante served long, ending the game and giving Pepperdine the win to close out the regular season for both teams.

Pepperdine did a masterful job of blocking all night, stuffing the Matadors 23.5 times to only seven times for the home time.

The Matadors will now face Stanford whom they beat 3-1 in January at Stockton before winning again at Northridge 3-1 in March.

“Our two seniors have been playing great volleyball,” Campbell said. “With the leadership of our seniors, I know we can beat Stanford. We have already beat them twice. We just did not have a great game tonight (but) they will bounce back. We will beat Stanford.”