Cal State Northridge advanced to the final of the NCAA Division II Western regional volleyball playoffs with a 15-4, 15-12, 15-9 victory over UC Riverside on Saturday night at CSUN.
Northridge (32-7), seeded No. 1 in the regional and ranked No. 1 in Division II, will play No. 2 Cal State Sacramento in the championship match at 1 p.m. today. Sacramento (33-11) defeated No. 3-seeded Portland State, 15-8, 15-11, 15-8, in Saturday's other semifinal match.
CSUN can earn its eighth consecutive berth in the Final Four by defeating Sacramento. The Lady Matadors defeated the Hornets three times in September and Sacramento Coach Debby Colberg expects an even tougher match today.
"You have to play almost flawlessly against them," Colberg said. "Beating them here is going to be very tough."
While Northridge has defeated Riverside (18-15) four times this season, Saturday's match was the most important meeting between the teams since the Highlanders won the national championship last year.
Northridge dominated No. 4-seeded Riverside in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. The Lady Matadors jumped out to early leads in all three games and trailed for the only time in the match briefly in the third game.
Riverside Coach Sue Gozansky said the Highlanders needed to play their best match of the year to defeat Northridge.
"I thought we played a good match, but Northridge played a great one," Gozansky said.
CSUN Coach Walt Ker echoed Gozansky's sentiment.
"Riverside played its best match of the year against us tonight," Ker said. "Its intensity level was much higher than before and its defense was outstanding."
Ker expects to face a much-improved Sacramento today.
"Their biggest development has been in defense," he said. "We will have to be very good offensively against them."
In losing, Portland State (24-15) failed to qualify for the Final Four for the second consecutive year. The Vikings won national championships in 1984 and '85.
Portland State, an independent, earned a berth in the regional by finishing second behind Sacramento in the Northwest Region.
Portland State started four sophomores against the Hornets because injuries have knocked out its top two players. Cathy Kuntz and Shelley Rumberger, both junior outside hitters, were forced to watch Portland State's final match from the bench.
In Friday's first-round match, Riverside (18-15) defeated San Francisco State, 15-11, 15-8, 15-11, to advance to the semifinals.