February 25, 2009

Fourth-Ranked Matadors Upset Top-Ranked Pepperdine in Five Thrilling Sets

Feb. 25, 2009

Final Stats

MALIBU, Calif. - Northridge wins at Firestone Fieldhouse have been few and far between over the years. Bringing a 5-26 record all-time into Wednesday's match in Malibu, the Matadors also had the pleasure of taking on the top-ranked team in the country. That made Northridge's five-set win all the more special as the Matadors pulled out a 30-24, 30-22, 33-35, 26-30, 15-12 win over the top-ranked Waves.

With the victory, the Matadors improve to 12-2 overall and 8-2 in the MPSF. The loss drops the Waves to 9-2 overall and 8-2 in conference play. Northridge also defeats a team ranked number one in the AVCA Top-15 poll for the first time since 2003.

Senior All-American Eric Vance led Northridge with a match-high 23 kills to go with 14 digs for his his second consecutive double-double and fifth this season. Vance hit a solid .315 in 54 swings. Sophomore Tanner Nua matched Vance by setting a new career high with 23 kills of his own. Nua hit .342 in 38 attacks and also added six digs. Mike Gaudino (.424) and Jacek Ratajczak (.667) each added 17 kills, which for Ratajczak is a career-high and Gaudino a season-high. Kevin McKniff rounded out the Northridge hitters with 11 kills (.450) and equaled Vance and Gaudino with two aces. Setter Matt Stork registered 81 assists for the second straight match while Ali'i Keohohou had a match-high 16 digs.

The Matadors out-hit the Waves .414 (94-22-174) to .345 (66-18-139) and had eight aces to just three for Pepperdine.

After a Matt McKee kill opened the scoring in set one, the Matadors took the lead 3-2 on a Vance kill. Back-to-back kills from McKniff followed by a Paul Carroll hitting error opened up 6-3 Northridge lead. A Gaudino kill gave the Matadors their biggest lead at 10-5 forcing Pepperdine to call timeout. Two straight Wave points closed the gap to 10-7 before Northridge built the lead back to five at 13-8 following another Vance put-away. Pepperdine was able to close to within one at 19-18 on a Carroll kill but a Carroll service error followed by a Tanner ace put the Matadors back up 21-18. A Gaudino kill off a Wave over-pass gave Northridge its biggest lead of the set 28-22. At 29-24, Vance's ninth kill of the set gave the Matadors set one 30-24. Northridge committed just three hitting errors in the first set as the Matadors posted a solid .500 hitting clip.

Northridge did not take its first lead of the second set until a Stork ace put the Matadors on top 7-6. Back-to-back kills from Gaudino followed and Pepperdine was forced to take a timeout at 9-6. After a Corey Riecks kill pulled the Waves within 9-7, Nua and Vance both put down kills as Northridge opened up an 11-7 cushion. Another Nua kill gave the Matadors their largest lead of the set at 13-8. Northridge also led by five at 14-9 before Pepperdine engineered a three-point run to get within 14-12. A Gaudino kill boosted the Matador lead back to three at 16-13 before kills from Rodnei Santos and Carroll cut the Northridge lead to one. But Northridge would not wilt as kills from Nua, Gaudino and Vance put the Matadors back up by four at 19-15. The lead swelled to six at 22-16 following a Gaudino ace and the Northridge led by at least five the rest of the way. Ratajczak and Stork teamed up for a block putting the Matadors on the verge of the set two win at 29-21 and Pepperdine save one set point before the Waves' Trevor Van Uden served into the net on set point.

Pepperdine led for the early stages of set three eventually opening up an 11-8 lead when, after a terrific rally, Vance was blocked by Santos and Kasey Crider. With the Waves on top 13-10, the Matadors rolled off three straight points, the last coming on a McKniff ace to force a Pepperdine timeout. Northridge also drew even at 14-14 and 15-15 before Carroll's attack went long giving the Matadors their first lead at 16-15. The Waves reclaimed the lead 18-17 when McKee put up a solo block on Nua. Pepperdine opened up a 22-20 lead on a co-block by Carroll and Mark Hulse but an ensuing 3-0 Matador run, highlighted by a pair of Nua kills and a Gaudino solo stuff put Northridge back in front 23-22. Following a Wave timeout, the teams traded sideouts until 28-28 when a Carroll kill gave Pepperdine a chance at set three. The Matadors had two chances at the match, the last at 32-31 when Ratazcjak's serve went just long. In all, Northridge saved three set points before the Waves cashed a Santos kill and a McKniff hitting error to claim set three 35-33.

In set four, the Matadors opened up a slim two-point lead at 7-5 following a McKniff kill. With Northridge up 9-8, a Santos kill followed by a Nua service error gave Pepperdine its first lead at 10-9. Despite Northridge tying the score five times over the next nine points, the Waves maintained their lead and ultimately opened up an 18-15 lead following a Carroll kill. Pepperdine's lead grew to as many as four points on five occasions, the last at 27-23, when a Ratazcjak kill followed by a Ratajczak-Vance block on Carroll forced the Waves into a timeout at 27-25. But a Santos kill out of the timeout followed by a Hulse-Crider block gave Pepperdine a set point at 29-25. A Vance kill saved one set point but Brent Schirripa's kill sent the match to a fifth and final set.

The Matadors tallied the first three points of the fifth set on kills from Ratajczak, Nua and Vance forcing the Waves to use an early timeout. The lead was 4-0 before a Carroll kill got Pepperdine on the board at 4-1. Northridge built its lead back to four at 5-1, 6-2 and led 8-4 at the change-over. After the Waves closed to 8-6, the Matadors took three of the next four points capped by a Gaudino ace to boost their lead back to four at 11-7. With Northridge on top 13-9, a McKee hitting error put the Matadors on the cusp of the upset. After Pepperdine saved three match points, Carroll's serve found the net and Northridge had its first win at Firestone Fieldhouse since 1996 and its first win over a number one-ranked team since 2003.

Carroll wound up with 22 kills (.327) and 12 digs to lead the Waves while Santos added 15 kills (.714). McKee also finished in double figures with 10 kills (.227).

Cal State Northridge's short two-match road trip concludes on Saturday, Feb. 28 as the Matadors travel to No. 5 USC. First serve at the Galen Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.

- GO MATADORS -