March 11, 2009

Top-Ranked Matadors Hold Off No. 11 UCLA to Win in Four Sets

March 11, 2009

Final Stats

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior Eric Vance and sophomore Tanner Nua combined for 41 kills as top-ranked Cal State Northridge held off the upset bid of No. 11 UCLA to win in four sets (30-20, 26-30, 30-28, 30-28) in an MPSF match Wednesday at The Matadome.

The win is the Matadors' 10th-straight as Northridge improves to 16-2 overall and 12-2 in the MPSF. The Matadors, who claimed their fifth consecutive win and third this season over the Bruins, took a one-half game lead in the MPSF standings heading into Friday's showdown with No. 2 UC Irvine. The loss drops UCLA to 8-12 overall and 4-9 in conference play.

Vance led Northridge with 23 kills on Wednesday as he hit an impressive .528 in 36 attacks. Vance also added three aces as he served tough throughout the match. Nua rebounded from a pair of tough outings against BYU last week to pound 18 kills while hitting .433. The sophomore opposite also added one ace and seven digs. The Matador middles, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak each added seven kills as McKniff hit .538 and served up a pair of aces. Both players also posted a match-high four blocks. Matt Stork registered 59 assists to go with a pair of kills, five digs and three blocks.

The two teams combined for 58 service errors in the match as the Matadors had six aces to seven for the Bruins. Northridge wound up hitting .405 (69-18-126) as a team while UCLA hit .278 (47-17-108).

The first set was still in doubt at 15-12 when the Matadors rolled off six consecutive points to open up a 21-12 lead. Five of Northridge's points in the run came with McKniff at the service line. The junior recorded one ace but kept the Bruins off balance with several solid serves. The Matador lead grew to as many as nine at 26-17 following a Nua ace. UCLA pulled within seven at 27-20 before three straight points, capped by McKniff's second ace of the set, to claim a 30-20 win.

Set two featured 13 ties and six lead changes as the two teams traded the lead until 16-16 when the Matadors took advantage of a UCLA service error, a Vance-Ratajczak block and a Nua kill to open up a 19-16 advantage. Northridge led 24-20 when the Bruins put together a 7-0 run to reclaim the lead 27-24. A Nua kill pulled the Matadors within 27-25 but that was close as they would get and the match was even after the 30-26 UCLA win.

Set three was the tighest of the match as neither team led by more than two until the Matadors got a kill and an ace from Vance to open up a 25-22 lead. The Northridge lead was four at 27-23 following a Gaudino-Ratajczak block but the Bruins won four of the next five points to close to within 28-27 after Ratajczak's attack went long. But a Vance kill matched by a Jack Polales kill gave the Matadors set point at 29-28. Vance converted the Stork set and Northridge had the 2-1 lead.

The Matadors looked to have the match in hand as they jumped out to a 15-9 lead in the fourth set. Northridge maintained a five-point cushion (20-15) until UCLA engineered a 6-1 run to knot the score at 21. Despite tying the score twice more, the last time at 23-23, the Bruins could never re-take the lead and with the Matadors up 25-24, a Nick Vogel service error followed by a Vance kill gave Northridge the cushion it needed. A Thomas Amberg ace closed the gap to 29-28 but Amberg committed a foot fault on his ensuing serve giving the Matadors the 30-28 win.

Polales led UCLA with 17 kills (.484) while Garrett Muagututia added 12 kills (.500), two aces and three blocks. Kevin Ker came off the bench to post a team-high 28 assists to go with a pair of aces.

Cal State Northridge continues its seven-match homestand on Friday as the Matadors play host to No. 2 UC Irvine at 7 p.m.

- GO MATADORS -

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