Feb. 1, 2009
HONOLULU, Hawai'i - Second-ranked Cal State Northridge came to Hawai'i on the heels of six straight wins but will leave the island with a two-match losing streak as the 12th-ranked Warriors defeated the Matadors in the finale of a two-match MPSF series Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center. Set scores were 30-26, 21-30, 32-30, 30-26.
With the win, the Warriors improve to 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the MPSF. The loss drops the Matadors to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play. Northridge has now dropped seven consecutive matches in Hawaii dating back to 2003.
Senior All-American Eric Vance led the Matadors with 27 kills while hitting .328. Vance now has 114 kills in his last four matches against Hawai'i, an average of 6.71 kills per game. Vance also added 15 digs for his third double-double in eight matches. Sophomore Tanner Nua added 15 kills (.200) and six digs while Jacek Ratajczak chipped in 11 kills (.364), two aces and four blocks. Kevin McKniff and Mike Gaudino also added a pair of aces but the Matadors were again victimized by 26 service errors. Gaudino added 15 digs and Ali'i Keohohou posted 14 digs in the loss.
Despite the loss, Northridge had an edge in almost every category on the stat sheet. The Matadors had a 67-55 edge in kills, 65-51 edge in assists, 7-4 edge in aces and a 61-54 edge in digs. The Warriors won the battle of the net with 17.0 team blocks to 10.0 for Northridge.
Hawaii jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the first set after a Brennon Dyer kill. The Matadors battled back to get within one at 9-8 after Kevin McKniff and Matt Stork combined to stuff Steven Hunt. But a resulting 5-1 run by the Warriors forced the Matadors to take a timeout at 14-9. A Ratajczak kill out of the timeout followed by a Gaudino ace temporarily closed the gap to 14-11. Hawaii maintained its lead until a Nua kill followed by a Stork ace gave Northridge its first and only lead of the set at 20-19. With the score tied 25-25, back-to-back kills from Dyer gave the Warriors the cushion they needed and McKniff's service error on set point put Hawaii up 1-0.
After Ratajczak opened the second set with a service error, the Matadors got back-to-back kills from Vance which propelled Northridge on a four-point run forcing Hawaii into an early timeout at 4-1. A Nua kill out of the timeout gave the Matadors their biggest lead at 5-1. Northridge also led 6-2 after a Vance kill but a 3-0 Warrior run cut the lead to one at 6-5. The Matadors continued to hold a slim lead but couldn't pull away until a Vance kill gave Northridge a five-point lead at 17-12. Hawaii cut the Matador lead to two at 18-16 but Northridge answered with a Nua kill, a Ratajczak ace and a Vance kill (his eighth of the set) to boost the lead back to five at 21-16. The Matador lead was never less than four the rest of the set and Nua, Gaudino and Ratajczak teamed up for a triple-block on set point.
The two teams traded sideouts for the first 13 points of the third set before a Steven Grgas ace put Hawaii up 8-6. The Warriors continued to hold a slim lead until Matt Rawson-Dyer block gave Hawaii a three-point lead at 11-8. Another co-block, this time by Joshua Walker and Grgas, gave the Warriors their biggest lead at 15-11 before Gaudino answered with a kill pulling the Matadors within 15-12. Northridge then scored five of the next seven points, highlighted by a Nua-Ratajczak block and a Ratajczak kill to pull even at 17-17. Northridge managed to knot the score four more times but could not take the lead until a Nua kill followed by a Gaudino-Ratajczak block gave the Matadors a 22-21 lead. A Vance kill gave Northridge its biggest lead at 23-21 before two straight Warrior points tied the score 23-23 forcing a Matador timeout. Northridge would not surrender the lead before a Vance kill and a Dyer hitting error gave the Matadors a 28-26 lead. However back-to-back Hawaii points knotted the set for the 16th time at 28-28. A Vance kill put Northridge on the verge of the win at 29-28 but Walker answered and the set was headed for extra points. The Matadors saved one set point at 30-29 but a Hunt kill gave the Warriors the set 32-30.
Northridge fell behind 5-1 in set four and was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way. A Grgas ace put Hawaii on top 9-4 forcing the Matadors to call timeout. Another Grgas ace gave the Warriors their largest lead at 18-12 resulting in another Northridge timeout. The Matadors slowly began to chip away at the lead ultimately pulling within 22-21 following kills from Nua, Ratajczak and Vance. But three consecutive Warrior points all but sealed the win and Kaleo Baxter's service error on match point sent the Matadors to their second straight loss.
Walker led Hawaii with a team-high 19 kills (.259) while Hunt added 15 (.407). Setter Sean Carney posted 48 assists and 10 digs while libero Ric Cervantes added a team-high 15 digs.
After playing seven of its first eight matches on the road, Cal State Northridge returns home to open up a five-match homestand beginning Friday, Feb. 6 against Long Beach State. First serve at The Matadome is scheduled for 7 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -