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Northridge Eighty-Sixes the 49ers

Volleyball: Matadors upset Long Beach State in first round of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.


LONG BEACH — History and statistics were not on the side of the Cal State Northridge volleyball team against Long Beach State on Saturday night in the first-round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs at the Pyramid.

The Matadors, ranked seventh nationally, lost twice to the second-ranked 49ers during the regular season and their 15-11 record was not as impressive as Long Beach's 21-5 mark.

But Northridge defied the odds and came away with a 15-9, 4-15, 15-8, 15-5 victory and a spot in the MPSF finals next week at Hawaii.

"We played the way we're capable of playing," Northridge Coach John Price said. "We played hard on every single point tonight, and that's something we haven't done all year."

Northridge took a 7-3 lead in the first game, but Long Beach tied it, 7-7. The Matadors then broke away with an 8-2 run that sealed the game. Sophomore outside hitter Chad Strickland served an ace for the clincher.

The 49ers came out fired up in the second game. They took an 8-0 lead before Northridge could get untracked, then went on to a 12-2 lead. The Matadors managed to score only two points after that, and they held off two game points before Long Beach won.

Northridge woke up in the third game and took a 7-4 lead after falling behind, 4-1. The Matadors put on the pressure and didn't fall behind again. Dan Nash served game point and Kevin Bergschneider blocked the return to secure the game.

The final game was tied, 2-2, before Northridge went on an eight-point run to take a 10-2 lead. Long Beach fought back with tough serves and solid blocking, but the Matadors gave up only three points after that.

Strickland served the Matadors' last two points and Long Beach's Martin Wagner hit a cross-court shot wide on match point.

"This was a great win for us," Strickland said. "We never let up and that's something we really haven't done this season. It feels great."

Collin Smith led Northridge with 26 kills and Jason Hughes had 25.

The 49ers were led by Wagner's 28 kills and Tom Hoff's 26.

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