Northridge Holds Off No. 2 USC's Upset Bid to Win in Five Sets

Feb. 3, 2010

Final Stats

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Junior Tanner Nua had a team-high 17 kills and senior Theo Edwards added 16 as top-ranked Cal State Northridge held off the upset bid of second-ranked USC to win 30-26, 30-28, 9-30, 26-30, 15-10 in front of 1,475 fans Wednesday at The Matadome.

The Matadors (9-1, 6-1 MPSF) nearly coughed up a two sets to none lead but held on to the 15-10 win in the fifth. Northridge has now defeated USC (6-3, 4-2 MPSF) 15 consecutive times dating back to the 2004 season.

On a night when the Matadors struggled on offense, Nua had 17 kills but hit just .167 while Edwards' 16 kills came with a .128 hitting clip. The two did combine for four of Northridge's eight aces (three from Nua) and Nua matched his career-high with 11 digs.

Senior Kevin McKniff was a bright spot for the Matador hitters as he added 11 kills while hitting .417 to go with two aces and five blocks. Jacek Ratajczak also had 11 kills but Northridge's second-leading hitter was limited to a .280 hitting clip in 25 swings. Setter Matt Stork posted his third double-double of the season with 56 assists and a career-high 12 digs but Northridge hit just .191 (67-34-173) as a team. Ali'i Keohohou and Mike Gaudino each had a match-high 15 digs in the win.

After the Matadors overcame an early 13-10 USC lead in set one, the teams traded sideouts until a McKniff ace evened the set at 21-21. An ensuing Edwards kill gave Northridge a 22-21 lead but the Trojans tallied the next three points (two on Austin Zahn-Tri Bourne co-blocks) to open up a 24-22 lead. But the Matadors answered with a 3-0 run of their own, highlighted by a kill and an ace from Nua and Northridge led 25-24. A Tony Ciarelli kill tied the score for the final time at 25-25 before Gaudino had a hand in three of the next four points as the Matadors opened up an insurmountable 29-25 lead. A Bourne service error on set point put Northridge up one set to none.

The Matadors led virtually the entire second set after trailing 2-1 in the early stages. Northridge's largest lead was five at 13-8 following a Gaudino kill but USC claimed 10 of the next 15 points to knot the score at 18 following a Maddison McKibbin kill. A Ciarelli kill also evened the score at 19-19 before the Matadors scored four unanswered points (two on USC miscues) to take a 23-19 lead. The Trojans got within one three times down the stretch, the last at 29-28 before McKniff's kill put Northridge up two sets.

For the Matadors set three was a complete disaster from the start. USC scored the first six points and never looked back. With the Trojans on top 20-6, Matador head coach Jeff Campbell pulled most of his starters to rest the remainder of the set and the Trojans did not let up. A Bourne kill on set point gave USC the lopsided 30-9 win.

USC carried the momentum from the third set into the fourth and led from start to finish. After taking an 11-6 lead following a Hunter Current-Ciarelli block on Ratajczak, the set looked to be all Trojans. After USC opened up a 24-17 lead, the Matadors finally asserted themselves and enginnered a 4-0 run to close to within 24-21 on a Gaudino ace. But that would be as close as Northridge would get until set point (29-26) when Bourne's kill sent the match to a fifth and decisive set.

After seeing its two-set lead evaporate Northridge was able to regroup and open the final set with three straight points forcing a USC timeout. Following the timeout, the Trojans scored three straight but a Nua kill ended the run. A Matador hitting error evened the score at 4-4 but Northridge then used a kill from Ratajczak, a Bourne hitting error and an Edwards ace to open up a crucial 7-4 advantage.

With the ninth-largest crowd in Matadome history firmly behind them, the Matadors withstood a two-point USC run which closed the gap to 7-6 as a Ratajczak kill and a McKniff-Stork block put Northridge in front 9-6. The Trojans pulled within two at 10-8, 11-9 an 12-10 before a Ratajczak kill, a Nua kill and a Nua ace gave the Matadors the 15-10 victory.

Ciarelli led the Trojans with a match-high 19 kills (.216) while Murphy Troy added 17 (.250) and Bourne chipped in 10 (.100). USC out-hit the Matadors .255 to .191 and had 16.5 team blocks to 11.5 for Northridge.

Cal State Northridge continues its three-match homestand on Friday as the Matadors host No. 10 Pepperdine at 7 p.m.

- GO MATADORS -