Matadors Open 2010 Season at Santa Barbara Invitational

Jan. 6, 2010

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FOR STARTERS Coming off arguably the two finest back-to-back seasons of Northridge men's volleyball, the Matadors open up their 34th season this Thursday, Jan. 7 at the 46th Annual Santa Barbara Invitational. Northridge, ranked ninth in the AVCA Preseason Poll and the defending tournament champion, opens tournament action Thursday at 11 a.m. against the host and 14th-ranked UCSB Gauchos. The Matadors will then take on either Long Beach State or Cal Baptist Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Northridge will play a single match on Friday at a time yet to be determined. Other teams competing in the season-opening tournament include BYU, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC San Diego.

MATADORS-GAUCHOS Thursday's match between the Matadors and UC Santa Barbara is the 76th meeting all-time between the two schools. The Gauchos hold a 42-33 advantage in the series which dates back to 1978. Northridge won both regular season matches last season and also defeated UCSB 3-1 at the Elephant Bar Invitational in January.

NORTHRIDGE IN THE SANTA BARBARA INVITATIONAL Thursday marks the Matadors' eighth straight appearance in UC Santa Barbara's annual tournament. In years past the 45-year old tournament was called the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational but has been renamed the Santa Barbara Invitational this year. Northridge has played in the tournament 12 times since 1996 including five seasons (1996-2000) when the tourney was called the UCSB Collegiate Invitational. The Matadors did not participate in either 2001 or 2002 and since 2003 the Invitational has been pared down from a 24-team field to its current eight-team format. Northridge won its first-ever tournament championship last season after upsetting No. 2 UCLA (3-1) and defeating No. 14 UCSB (3-1) and No. 8 Stanford (3-1). The Matadors have finished 2-1 in the tournament five times since 2003, most recently in 2008. Northridge also reached the championship match in 2004 and 2005, falling to UCLA each time. All-time, the Matadors are 33-23 (.589) in the Santa Barbara tournament.

MATADORS OPEN NINTH IN AVCA PRESEASON COACHES POLL After finishing the 2009 season with a No. 4 national ranking, Northridge opens 2010 ranked ninth. The Matadors earned 112 points in the season's inaugural poll released Dec. 29. USC received 13 of 16 first-place votes and opens at No. 1 with 237 points. UC Irvine, which earned the other three first-place votes, is second with 218 points followed by Stanford (202), Pepperdine (186) and Penn State (175) rounds out the preseason top-five. BYU (160) is sixth followed by Long Beach State (150), UCLA (136), the Matadors and Ohio State (101). The preseason top-15 is rounded out by Ball State (73), Hawai'i (59), UC San Diego (57), Lewis (29) and UC Santa Barbara (29).

NORTHRIDGE RETURNS SIX STARTERS IN 2010 The Matador starting lineup will have a familiar look in 2010 with one exception. Gone is two-time first team All-American Eric Vance but Northridge welcomes back seniors Mike Gaudino, Ali'i Keohohou, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak along with junior Tanner Nua and sophomore Matt Stork. Vance led the Matadors in kills 27 times last season so Northridge will look to senior Theo Edwards and others to fill the void left by Vance's graduation. Nua finished second to Vance in kills in 2009 with 317 (3.17 kpg) while Gaudino added a career-best 306 kills (2.83 kpg). Ratajczak, a second team All-American, and McKniff, a third-team All-MPSF pick, combined for 516 kills while hitting .473. Keohohou, who set the Matador single-season record with 321 digs in 2009, will spearhead the Northridge defensive effort while Stork set the Matadors to a .334 hitting clip as a true freshman, the second-best mark in school history. The 2009 Matadors also shattered the school record in service aces with 225 and nearly 75% of that total in 2010.

SEVERAL NEW FACES LOOK TO CONTRIBUTE IN 2010 Despite returning six of seven starters, Northridge may have to lean on some new faces in 2010. Outside hitter John Baker, setter Ashton Hippenstiel and middle blocker Jared Moore all redshirted as true freshman last season while outside hitter Justin Burridge sat out last season after transferring from Pacific. New to the roster this season are true freshmen outside hitters Dillon Auxier (Fountain Valley, Calif./Edison HS) and Drew Staker (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial HS) and sophomore libero/OH Jim Wielebnicki (Darien, Ill./Santa Barbara CC).

2009 MATADORS SET SCHOOL WIN RECORDS The Matadors won their school record 24th match of the 2009 season with the MPSF Quarterfinal win over BYU. Northridge also wound up the home season with a school-record 14 home wins. Last season's home winning percentage of .875 (14-2) trails only the 1991 team (.929, 13-1) and the 2008 team (.923, 12-1) in school history.

CHANGES TO COACHING STAFF IN 2010 Jon Roberts joined the Matador coaching staff in September as Jeff Campbell's top assistant coach. Roberts replaces Matt Shubin who spent the 2009 season on the Matador coaching staff. Roberts brings an extensive coaching resume to the men's program at Northridge. His career began in 1987 as an assistant coach for both the men's and women's teams at Rutgers University. He then moved back to the West Coast to become the Head Men's and Women's Coach at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif. Roberts compiled records of 45-20 with the men and 36-10 with the women and was named NCAA Division III Women's Coach of the Year for the Oaks in 1992. Roberts accepted an assistant coaching position at Texas A&M in 1993 before returning to his alma mater in September of 1994. He spent three seasons as an assistant to Ken Preston at UC Santa Barbara (1994-97) before heading overseas to work with the Mladost Volleyball Club in Zagreb, Croatia from 1997 to 1999. Roberts' most recent coaching position was the Head Coach at Newbury Park High School where he ran the girls volleyball program from 2002 to 2005. He has also worked as a coach for the Dominican Republic Junior National Team (1992) as well as serving as an advance scout/consultant for the U.S. National Team and UC Santa Barbara. Former UC Santa Barbara setter Bart Kowalski also joins seventh-year assistant Mike Arone as a volunteer assistant in 2010.

SCOUTING THE INVITATIONAL On the dawn of a new decade, the eight-team Santa Barbara Invitational Men's Volleyball Tournament will be held Thursday and Friday, Jan. 7-8, 2010, hosted by UC Santa Barbara. Thursday's matches will be played at Robertson (Rob) Gymnasium and the Thunderdome, while Friday's matches will take place exclusively in Rob Gym. The Gauchos will open the tournament against Cal State Northridge at 11 a.m. in Rob Gym on Thursday. The winner of UCSB- CSUN will play the victor of Cal Baptist-LBSU, with the loser of each match also facing each other in the second round. Defending national champions UC Irvine will open against BYU in the first round, while UCLA will play UCSD. All first-round matches will begin at 11 a.m. on Thursday with the second round following at 7 p.m. the same day. Pre-sale tickets are now available for purchase by the general public. The All-Session Pass, which allows fans to witness every match during the Santa Barbara Invitational, is $12 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $5 for children when ordered online or by phone before January 6th at 4 p.m. Holders of an All-Session Pass are free to move about the campus to watch their choice of matches and are eligible to attend on both days of the tournament. Fans also have the option of buying the All-Session Pass on tournament-day. Adults are $15, seniors are $12, and youth run for $8.

- GO MATADORS -