April 7, 2010
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior Theo Edwards pounded a match-high 19 kills and John Baker added 18 as fourth-ranked Cal State Northridge held off No. 11 UC Santa Barbara's upset bid to win in five sets (27-30, 30-26, 30-20, 28-30, 15-12) Wednesday at The Matadome.
With the win, the Matadors (19-7, 14-6 MPSF) move into a tie with BYU for second place in a tight MPSF race. Northridge and BYU, which meet for two matches in Provo, Utah next weekend, trail first-place Stanford (13-5) in the standings.
Edwards knocked down a match-high 19 kills while hitting .375 as a season-high five Matador hitters posted double figures in kills. Edwards' output is his best since putting down 23 kills against Pepperdine in early February.
Baker added 18 kills (.171), Mike Gaudino had 15 (.303) and Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak each chipped in 14. Ratajczak's 14 kills came without an error in 20 swings for a .700 hitting clip and the senior also matched his career-high with 10 blocks.
The Matadors had to overcome the loss of libero Ali'i Keohohou who was injured towards the end of the opening set and setter Matt Stork appeared to tweak an ankle midway through the fourth set. Stork played through the pain and wound up with a season-high 72 assists while Northridge hit .348 as a team.
"We played a real tough team tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "Santa Barbara is fighting for their playoff lives and they played the hardest I've ever seen them play. We had Ali'i go down in game one and that changed the match a little bit. I feel very fortunate that we we're able to win in game five."
The Gauchos, who are currently one spot out of the eighth and final MPSF Tournament spot, took the opening set 30-27 as they hit .375. The teams traded sideouts early on before three straight Northridge points opened up a 12-8 cushion. The Matadors held the lead until a Cullen Irons kill evened the set at 16. Northridge however would not surrender the lead until another Irons kill gave the Gauchos a 24-23 lead. UCSB would not trail again and Irons' fifth kill of the frame gave UCSB the 30-27 win.
The Gauchos however could not sustain the momentum or their solid hitting as they would not hit higher than .205 in the four ensuing sets. The Matadors overcame a 12-8 lead in set two ultimately taking a 27-21 lead after Irons' attack went long. After UCSB narrowed the gap to 29-26, a co-block from McKniff and Gaudino evened the match at one set apiece.
UCSB's Jeff Menzel and Dylan Davis stuffed Baker for the first point of set three but it was all Northridge from then on. The Matadors held a pair of three-point leads early before blowing the set open with a 5-1 run giving Northridge a comfortable 16-8 lead. The Matador lead was never less than five the rest of the way and an Irons' service error gave Northridge the 30-20 win.
The fourth set was the tightest of the match as the two teams battled through 14 ties and six lead changes. The Gauchos took a 7-5 lead only to watch as the Matadors scored four unanswered to take a 9-7 lead. But an ensuing 5-0 UCSB run put the Gauchos back on top 12-9. UCSB held that lead until Edwards and Ratajczak teamed-up to block Jake Rosener evening the set at 20. Tied at 24, the Matadors used a McKniff kill and a Menzel hitting error to open up a 26-24 lead. But two quick Gaucho points evened the set again at 26. A Gaudino kill gave the Matadors their final lead at 27-26 before UCSB took advantage of a pair of Northridge miscues to arrive at set point 29-27. After a Trey Valbuena service error, Rosener's kill sent the set to a fifth and deciding set.
Northridge took the first two points of the final frame and would not trail until 11-10. After knotting the score five times, the last at 10-10, Rosener's kill gave the Gauchos their only lead of the set. But Ratajczak answered with a kill which propelled the Matadors on a 4-0 run which ultimately decided the match. Trailing 14-11, USCB saved one match point before a Ratajczak kill ended the match.
Menzel paced the Gauchos with a team-high 14 kills (.122) while Irons added 11 (.031). UCSB setter Vince Devany posted 46 assists and seven digs in the loss.
Cal State Northridge wraps up the regular season home schedule this Saturday as the Matadors host No. 9 Penn State in a non-conference match beginning at 7 p.m. Prior to the match, Northridge will honor its 2010 senior class of Theo Edwards, Mike Gaudino, Ali'i Keohohou, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak.
- GO MATADORS -