April 16, 2010
PROVO, Utah - Third-ranked Cal State Northridge dropped the opener of a crucial two-match series at second-ranked BYU on Friday. Senior Kevin McKniff had a team-high 14 kills in the loss.
The Matadors (20-8, 14-7 MPSF) will look to rebound Saturday in the finale of the two-match series. A split in the series with the Cougars (21-7, 15-6 MPSF) would help Northridge in its bid to host an MPSF Tournament quarterfinal match next week. UC Santa Barbara did the the Matadors a favor by defeating Hawai'i on Friday night. Northridge is currently tied with Pepperdine at 14-7 with Hawai'i currently one game back at 13-8.
The Matadors were led by McKniff's 14 kills while the senior hit a team-high .458. Jacek Ratajczak added 11 kills (.444) and John Baker chipped in nine kills but hit just .087. Matt Stork had 40 assists and a team-high six digs in the loss. Northridge had to overcome the loss of starting outside hitter Theo Edwards who was injured in practice Thursday night.
The Matadors were out-hit .354 to .245 and were out-blocked 17.5 to 6.5 by the Cougars. Northridge was also held without an ace for the first time this season.
"We just never stopped them at all," said Northridge head coach Jeff Campbell. "Our blocking was very poor and our serving was very conservative, which is definitely not us. The bottom line was we simply didn't make any plays tonight."
The Matadors never led in the opening set falling behind by as many as five points at 14-9 after Ratajczak's attack went wide. Trailing 18-14, Northridge won consecutive points on kills from McKniff and Mike Gaudino to pull within 18-16 before BYU again pushed its lead back to three at 20-17. But back came the Matadors on a Baker kill and a Baker-Ratajczak co-block to get within one at 20-19. But Northridge could never take a lead and after tying the score at 28-28, the Cougars took three of the final four points of the set to claim the important first set.
The opening set is crucial because the Matadors are 18-1 on the season when winning the first set and just 2-6 when dropping set one.
Set two saw the teams trade sideouts early on, but again the Matadors never held a lead. With the score tied 3-3, BYU claimed the next two points and eventually led 7-6 before breaking the set wide open. A Kevin Sagers hitting error briefly pulled the Matadors within two at 9-7, but the Cougars would claim the next four points to take a comfortable 13-7 lead. Northridge would not get within five points the rest of the way and BYU took a 2-0 lead into the third.
The Matadors were determined to stay in the match and led for the first time in the match in set three. After holding early one-point leads, Northridge overcame an 8-6 BYU lead to take back the lead at 10-9 after a Futi Tavana hitting error. Consecutive kills from Baker and McKniff gave the Matadors their largest lead of the match at 13-11. Northridge also led by two at 14-12 and by one at 15-14 before the roof caved in on the Matadors. BYU scored the next three points to wrestle back the lead but that only propelled the Cougars on a 10-2 run that gave BYU an insurmountable 25-16 lead.
Trailing 26-17, Northridge showed some resolve by rolling off six consecutive points, three by Tanner Nua, and the Matadors were back within four at 27-23. But the gap was too big and BYU cashed in its first set point on a Nua service error.
The Matadors and Cougars wrap up the two-match set on Saturday at 7 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -