May 6, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - Cal State Northridge had its season come to an abrupt end as third-seed Penn State swept the second-seeded Matadors 30-21, 30-23, 30-28 in an NCAA Tournament semifinal match Thursday night at Stanford's Maples Pavilion.
Northridge (23-10), which defeated the Nittany Lions in straight sets in The Matadome on Apr. 10, had the tables turned on them Friday night. Despite 15 kills from senior middle Jacek Ratajczak, Penn State (24-7) dominated the Matadors from the mid-point of the opening set.
"We handled them at home which I think worked against us tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "Tonight, we looked like we hadn't been here in 17 years and they looked like they were here every year."
In his final match for the Matadors, Ratajczak did his part knocking down a team-high 15 kills while hitting .357 to go with eight total blocks (two solo). Ratajczak, a first team AVCA All-American, accounted for nearly half of the Matador points in the match.
Fellow senior Mike Gaudino added seven kills (.278) and 10 digs but seniors Kevin McKniff and Theo Edwards were limited to eight kills combined. McKniff, a first team All-American with Ratajczak, had three kills in nine swings (.222) and three blocks, his lowest offensive output of the season.
Northridge hit .193 (38-17-109) as a team and struggled to find any kind of offensive rhythm.
"We played tight tonight, we didn't play like we've been playing all year long," added Campbell. "I think that's a result of being in the NCAA Tournament."
After Northridge took a pair of early two-point leads, Penn State scored three straight points to open up a three-point cushion at 7-4. A Ratajczak kill and a Will Price service error closed the gap to 7-6 before Penn State built its lead back to three (9-6) following a Joe Sunder kill.
After a Turko service error pulled the Matadors within 9-7, Penn State rallied for four of the next five points to take its largest lead at 13-8 forcing a Northridge timeout. The Matadors then put together a 7-2 run highlighted by three consecutive blocks, to close to within 15-14. But the Nittany Lions quickly built their lead back to three (17-14) on a Sunder kill and a Goas ace.
The lead swelled to five at 21-16 forcing the Matadors to use their second and final timeout. Back-to-back Price aces put Penn State up 24-17 before Northridge scored two straight on Nittany Lion miscues but that was as close as the Matadors would get in the set. A Nua hitting error gave the Nittany Lions the opening set 30-21.
Ratajczak was the lone bright spot for the Matadors, who hit .067 in the set. Ratajczak had seven of Northridge's 15 kills.
The teams traded sideouts for the first 15 points of set two before Penn State tallied three consecutive points to overcome an 8-7 Matador lead. Sunder's kill out of the back row put the Nittany Lions up 10-8 forcing a Northridge timeout. A 3-1 Matador run evened the score at 11 and Northridge would also knot the score at 12 and 13 but each time Penn State would answer.
After a Gaudino kill again pulled the Matadors within one at 15-14, Penn State used a 4-1 to open up its largest lead of the set 19-15. Trailing by three at 20-17 after a Ratajczak kill, Penn State salted the set away with a five-point run putting the Nittany Lions in front to stay 25-17. The Nittany Lions went up two sets to none after Price hit off the Matador block giving Penn State the 30-23 win.
Northridge continued to struggle on offense as the Matadors hit .154 in the set and were hitting just .116 through two games.
The Matadors, needing to win the final three sets, fell behind 5-1 quickly in set three and were forced to use an early timeout. Northridge then spent its second timeout after falling behind 8-2. After trailing by as many as seven (11-4), the Matadors battled back to within 15-11 following kills from Baker and Gaudino.
Northridge, however could not cut the deficit to less than four until a Ratajczak kill got the Matadors within 25-22. Down 27-24, another Ratajczak kill and a Will Price hitting error pulled Northridge within one at 27-26 forcing a Penn State timeout. A Price kill out of the timeout pushed the lead back to 28-26 before Baker answered and the Matadors were again within one at 28-27.
Then a crucial net call went against Gaudino and the Matadors putting the Nittany Lions on the verge 29-27. A Gaudino kill staved off one match point but Price answered on the ensuing point and Penn State claimed the third and final set 30-28.
Price and Sunder each paced Penn State with a match-high 18 kills with Price hitting .353 and Sunder .333. Max Lipsitz added nine kills while hitting .533. The Nittany Lions hit .355 (56-18-107) as a team in the win.
"I'm proud of this team," said Edwards. "We thought we were going to play for a national championship but it was tough loss tonight. I'm proud to represent Northridge."
- GO MATADORS -