April 1, 2009

Matadors Battle Back From Two-Set Deficit But Fall 15-12 in Fifth Set

April 1, 2009

Final Stats

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - In front of the largest home crowd of the season, third-ranked Cal State Northridge battled back from a two-set deficit but could not complete the comeback as second-ranked Pepperdine pulled out a 30-28, 31-29, 28-30, 35-37, 15-12 victory Wednesday at The Matadome.

With the win, the Waves pull ahead of idle UC Irvine in the MPSF standings at 17-2 overall and 15-2 in conference. The Matadors, who came into the match just 1.5 games back slip to 2.5 games behind Pepperdine at 20-5 overall and 13-5 in the MPSF. The Waves also exacted revenge on the Matadors who won in five in Malibu on Feb. 25.

Senior All-American Eric Vance led Northridge with a match and season-high 33 kills. Vance, who hit an impressive .518 in 56 swings, notched his seventh double-double of the season by adding 12 digs. Junior Mike Gaudino also had a solid night as he posted a career-high 24 kills (.356) to go with nine digs, three blocks and a pair of aces. Junior Jacek Ratajczak also reached double figures in kills with 10 (.429) and had a match-high seven blocks (one solo). Libero Ali'i Keohohou recorded a match-high 16 digs and setter Matt Stork had 79 assists in the loss.

After trailing for much of the match, the Matadors cranked up their hitting over the final two sets and wound up out-hitting the Waves .351 (87-27-171) to .348 (82-26-161). Both teams had four aces but Northridge committed 26 service errors to 18 for Pepperdine.

The Matadors held an early 6-3 lead in the first set but watched as the Waves came back to take six of the next seven points to take a 9-7 lead after a Kasey Crider ace. Trailing 10-8, Northridge engineered a 3-0 run capped by a Gaudino ace to reclaim the lead at 11-10. A Vance kill gave Northridge another three-point lead at 16-13 and the Matadors held the lead until Vance's attack was stuffed by Tyler Jaynes, Matt McKee and Paul Carroll giving the Waves a 25-24 advantage. Northridge would not lead and despite pulling to within 29-28 on a Vance kill, Kevin McKniff's attack went long on set point.

With the score tied 16-16 in set two, Pepperdine appeared to take command ultimately opening up a 25-20 cushion after a Gaudino hitting error. With the Waves on top 26-22, the Matadors strung together four straight points, the last three on Gaudino kills, to pull even at 26. The score was also tied at 27, 28 and 29 before Gaudino's service error and Keohohou's misplay of Rodnei Santos' serve put the Waves up two sets to none.

Northridge dug itself a hole in the third set as Pepperdine jumped out to an early 12-7 lead. The Waves also led 15-10 before the Matadors scored five straight points, three on Vance kills, to pull even at 15-15. The lead see-sawed back and forth until 24-24 when a Vance kill, a Carroll hitting error and a Theo Edwards-McKniff block gave Northridge its biggest lead at 27-24. With the Matadors up 29-26, Pepperdine saved two set points before Gaudino's kill pulled Northridge within a set.

The Matadors never trailed in the fourth set after bolting to an early 8-2 lead. A 6-1 Pepperdine run closed the gap to 9-8 but the Waves were not able to tie the score until 29-29. The teams traded sideouts until 35-35, Pepperdine saved six set points, when back-to-back Vance kills evened the match 2-2.

The Matadors jumped out to a pair of three point leads early in the decisive fifth set. Trailing 6-3, the Waves claimed five of the next six points to take the lead for good at 8-7. Following the change-over, Vance's kill pulled the Matadors even at 8-8 but that was as close as Northridge would get the rest of the way. The Matadors pulled within one four times, the last at 13-12, before a Santos kill and a Gaudino hitting error gave Pepperdine the thrilling five-set win.

Carroll led the Waves with 32 kills while McKee, Cory Riecks and Santos also registered double-digit kill totals with 16, 15 and 13, respectively. Crider posted 75 assists and Sean Grubbs had a team-high 14 digs.

Cal State Northridge wraps up the home schedule on Friday, Apr. 3 as the Matadors host No. 4 USC at 7 p.m.

- GO MATADORS -

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