March 5, 2010
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior Jacek Ratajczak had a career night with 30 kills in 41 swings without an error to propel third-ranked Cal State Northridge to a come-from-behind 30-27, 28-30, 26-30, 30-28, 15-12 win over eighth-ranked Hawai'i Friday at The Matadome.
The Matadors (13-5, 10-5 MPSF) won the opener of the two-match set with the visiting Warriors (10-6, 6-5 MPSF) as Ratajczak hit an astounding .732 in a career-high 41 swings. His kill total is the most by a Matador this season and the most for a Northridge player since Eric Vance had 31 against Pepperdine in the semifinals of the 2009 MPSF Tournament. The senior middle blocker from Warsaw, Poland (via New York) also added Northridge's only two aces in the match, two digs and four blocks (one solo).
"Jack had a great night," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "They were double and triple committing on him and he was hitting over them. Anytime a middle can hit what he did, over .700, on 41 attempts that's phenomenal."
Redshirt freshman John Baker added 15 kills (.364) in his first home start while senior Kevin McKniff added 13 kills (.423) and nine blocks and senior Mike Gaudino chipped in 11 kills (.375), six digs and five blocks. Setter Matt Stork had 69 assists and led the Matadors to a .440 team hitting clip while Ali'i Keohohou posted a match-high 13 digs in the win.
The match turned into a battle between the two tallest players on the court, the 7-2 Ratajczak and 6-9 Jonas Umlauft of Hawai'i. Umlauft, a freshman, had a team-high 27 kills in a match-high 60 attempts while hitting .267.
"Both teams played their hearts out tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "It certainly could have gone either way."
The Matadors watched as Hawai'i built a 13-9 lead in the opening set before Joshua Walker's hitting error capped a 7-3 Matador run knotting the score at 16-16. But kills from Walker and Matthew Rawson built the Warrior lead back to 18-16. Trailing 20-19, the Matadors took the lead for good on a Theo Edwards kill, a pair of Ratajczak kills and an Umlauft hitting error as Northridge opened up a 23-20 lead. Hawai'i pulled within one at 27-26 but the Matadors held on and Edwards kill at set point gave Northridge the early lead.
In the tightest set of the match that featured 15 ties and three lead changes, the Warriors jumped out to an early 9-6 lead following a Rawson kill. Baker's kill capped another Northridge run, this time 6-1 as the Matadors pulled in front 12-10. From that point on, the teams traded sideouts until Umlauft's kill gave Hawai'i a two-point cushion at 18-16. Despite getting within one several times down the stretch, the Matadors could never reclaim the lead and fell 30-28 after Umlauft's seventh kills of the set.
With the score tied 10-10 in set three, Hawai'i scored eight of the next 12 points to put the set out of reach. Northridge would get within three late (26-23) but the Warriors pulled away winning 30-26.
Hawai'i was looking for the four set win as the Warriors took an 18-16 lead midway through the fourth. Two straight Matador points evened the score but the Warriors would not rellinquish the lead until a Tanner Nua kill followed by a McKniff-Baker block gave Northridge its first lead at 22-21. The Matadors built the lead to 25-22 after Walker's attack went long and Northridge forced a fifth set with the 30-28 win.
Two straight Matador points opened the decisive fifth set and Northridge eventually led 6-2 after another Nua kill. The Warriors battled back to within two five times in the set but could get no closer and with the Matadors on top 14-12, Ratajczak's career-best 30th kill on the night sent the Matadors to their fifth home win in seven tries.
In addition to Umlauft's 27 kills, Walker added 23 (.405), Steven Hunt had 19 (.263) and Rawson chipped in 10 (.533). Hawai'i wound up hitting .327 as a team.
The two teams will square off again tomorrow as the Matadors and Warriors wrap up the two-match series with a rare 2 p.m. first serve.
- GO MATADORS -