Matadors Open Season with Four-Set Win over No. 14 UC Santa Barbara

Jan. 7, 2010

Final Stats

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Senior Theo Edwards matched his career-high with 20 kills and fellow senior Kevin McKniff added 16 kills as ninth-ranked Cal State Northridge opened the season with a 31-29, 28-30, 30-17, 30-19 win over No. 14 UCSB at the Santa Barbara Invitational.

The Matadors (1-0), the tournament's defending champion, advance to face Cal Baptist Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Lancers upset Long Beach State in five sets Thursday afternoon.

Edwards, a senior from Northridge, earned just the seventh start of his Matador career and responded by matching his career-high with 20 kills in a career-high 44 swings. Filling the void left by two-time All-American Eric Vance, Edwards also had a career-high 10 digs for his first career double-double and also had five blocks (two solo) and a pair of aces.

McKniff was effective all match long as the senior had 16 kills and just one error in 23 attacks to hit a match-high .652. McKniff also added five block assists. Fellow middle Jacek Ratajczak added nine kills (.375), four blocks and an ace and junior Tanner Nua contributed eight kills (.034), a career-high 11 digs and five blocks.

Northridge setter Matt Stork posted 49 assists and 10 digs while the Matadors overcame a slow start to hit .266 as a team. Libero Ali'i Keohohou had a team-high 12 digs in the win.

"It was good to get one under our belt," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "The big question for us was how were we going to react without Eric Vance and I think for the most part we did a nice job.

"We were a little shaky in games one and two but we really started playing well in games three and four which is nice to see."

The Matadors took an early 10-4 lead in the first set only to watch as UCSB scored five unanswered points to pull within 10-9 after Gaudino's attack was stuffed. Neither team led by more than a point until the Gauchos went up 19-17 after a Jake Rosener kill. A McKniff kill pulled the Matadors within 23-21 and spurred a 4-0 Matador run that included two more McKniff kills which forced a UCSB timeout at 24-23. A Gaudino kill gave Northridge set point at 29-27 but back-to-back Gaucho points sent the set to extra points. Back-to-back UCSB hitting errors gave the Matadors the first set 31-29.

After hitting .146 in set one, the Matadors bumped it up slightly to .189 but could not sustain the momentum. Northridge fell behind early 10-4 and was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way. Gaudino's kill capped a 4-0 run pulling the Matadors to within 16-15 but the Matadors could not get over the hump. A Gaucho hitting error knotted the score at 21-21 but that was as close as Northridge would get as UCSB took set two 30-28.

The setback seemed to spur the Matadors on in the final two sets as Northridge scored 15 of the first 24 points in set three. Three straight kills from McKniff fueled the Matadors on a 7-0 run to break open the set 24-12 as a Gaudino ace capped the run. After the Gauchos closed to within 29-17, a Ratajczak kill ended it.

Set four saw the Matadors jump out to a 13-7 lead after a solo stuff from Edwards forced a UCSB timeout. Three consecutive Gaucho hitting errors gave Northridge its largest lead at 16-10. Leading 19-14, the Matadors salted the match away with six straight points and cruised home with the set 30-19.

Jeff Menzel led UCSB (0-1) with a match-high 24 kills (.211) and 12 digs. The Gauchos had just one ace and committed 17 service errors in the loss.