March 13, 2010

McKniff and Ratajczak Power Third-Ranked Matadors Past Loyola-Chicago 30-22, 30-27, 30-22

March 13, 2010

Final Stats

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior middle blockers Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak combined for 25 kills as third-ranked Cal State Northridge swept the 12th-ranked Loyola Ramblers 30-22, 30-27, 30-22 Saturday at The Matadome.

The Matadors (15-6) got a huge night from their middle blockers as the McKniff-Ratajczak duo combined to hit .767 with 25 kills and just two errors in 30 attempts.

Ratajczak shared match-high honors with teammate John Baker as each put down 13 kills. Ratajczak hit .706 with just one error in 17 swings to go with five blocks and an ace. McKniff came through with 12 kills in 13 swings, also committing just one error, to hit an impressive .846. Baker's 13 kill came on .300 hitting and the redshirt freshman added five digs and four blocks (one solo).

Setter Matt Stork had two of Northridge's five aces and his 40 assists led to the Matadors hitting .354 as a team. Libero Ali'i Keohohou reached double figures in digs for the 11th time this season as the senior dug 10 balls.

The opening set was the tightest of the match as there were 11 ties and three lead changes. Loyola took an early 6-4 lead following a Mike Gaudino hitting error and continued to lead until back-to-back kills from Ratajczak and Baker gave the Matadors a 14-13 lead, their first lead since 3-2. The Ramblers kept the set close, tying the score on four occasions, the last at 18-18 before the Matadors pulled away with a 5-1 run. A Gaudino kill put Northridge comfortably in front 29-21 and McKniff's kill ended the set 29-22.

The Matadors bolted out to a pair of four-point leads in the second set but Loyola overcame both leads to knot the score at 13-13 on a Mike Morice kill. With the score even at 15-15, kills from McKniff and Gaudino and a Rambler miscue gave Northridge the separation it needed taking an 18-15 lead. After trailing by as many as five points (23-18) in the latter stages, Loyola battled back to within one at 26-25 following a Kris Berzins kill. But that was as close as the Ramblers would get as the Matadors cashed in set point on a Ratajczak kill.

The final set was tight for the first 10 points before the Matadors scored five unanswered points to open up a 10-5 lead. It was all Northridge from then on as a Stork ace gave the Matadors an insurmountable 21-12 advantage.

Domenic Dewaele came off the bench to lead the Ramblers (12-3) with 11 kills (.333). Mike Bunting added nine kills but hit just .069 while Berzins chipped in eight kills but also struggled to a .037 hitting clip. Loyola wound up hitting .183 as a team.

Cal State Northridge will have a 13-day break from game action before heading to the Midwest to take on Ball State for two matches (Mar. 26-27).

- GO MATADORS -