January 13, 2009

After UCSB/Elephant Bar Triumph, Northridge Opens MPSF Play at No. 8 UCLA

Jan. 13, 2009

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NORTHRIDGE'S MPSF SEASON OPENS ON THE ROAD AT #8 UCLA, CONTINUES AT #5 UC IRVINE Second-ranked Cal State Northridge (3-0, 0-0 MPSF) kicks off the MPSF schedule this week as the Matadors travel to No. 8 UCLA (1-2, 0-0) for their MPSF opener Wednesday at 7 p.m. The two-match road trip continues on Friday as Northridge heads to UC Irvine (3-1, 0-0) also at 7 p.m. The Matadors won all three matches at the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational last weekend to claim their first-ever E-Bar title as senior outside hitter Eric Vance took home tournament Most Valuable Player honors. Northridge opens the home schedule Jan. 23 against UC Santa Barbara in The Matadome at 7 p.m.

MATADORS CAPTURE FIRST-EVER UCSB/ELEPHANT BAR INVITATIONAL CROWN Behind tournament MVP Eric Vance's match-high 20 kills, fourth-seeded Cal State Northridge won its first-ever UCSB/Elephant Bar Collegiate Invitational championship after defeating Stanford, 21-30, 30-20, 30-27, 30-20 Saturday night at Robertson Gym. The Matadors (3-0) defeated No. 2 UCLA and No. 14 UC Santa Barbara on Friday before topping No. 8 Stanford in Saturday's title match. Vance earned tournament Most Valuable Player and all-tournament honors after pounding 60 kills in the Matadors' three wins, including 20 against the Cardinal. The 2008 First Team All-America also added eight digs and three blocks (two solo) while hitting .250 in 48 swings. Junior Mike Gaudino was also named to the all-tournament team after posting another solid all-around match with 13 kills, 15 digs, three aces and four blocks. Tanner Nua (12 kills) and Jacek Ratajczak (11) also posted double figures in kills while Ratajczak match Vance's two solo blocks. Matt Stork was impressive again as the freshman setter led the Matadors to a .324 hitting clip by posting 55 assists to go with a pair of kills and three digs. Libero Ali'i Keohohou also recorded 14 digs in the win.

NORTHRIDGE JUMPS UP TO SECOND IN BISON/AVCA TOP 15 POLL After three wins and a tournament championship at the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational last weekend, the Matadors jumped three spots to second in the first Bison/AVCA poll of the season released Jan. 12. Northridge earned 220 points this week after picking up 172 points and a number five ranking in the preseason poll released Dec. 30, 2008. The number two national ranking is the Matadors' highest since Mar. 31, 2008 when Northridge was also second. Penn State, the preseason number one team, picked up all 16 first place votes this week and holds the top spot with 240 total points. Pepperdine (1-0), Stanford (2-1) and UC Irvine (2-1) round out this week's top five teams. Spots 6-10 are occupied by USC (2-1), Long Beach State (1-2), UCLA (1-2), UC Santa Barbara (2-1) and BYU (1-2).

VANCE, GAUDINO NAMED ALL-TOURNAMENT AT UCSB/ELEPHANT BAR INVITATIONAL Northridge had its pair of outside hitters named to the UCSB/Elephant Bar all-tournament team as senior Eric Vance and junior Mike Gaudino each earned the honor. Vance, the tournament MVP, was also named MPSF Co-Player of the Week after averaging 5.00 kills per game, 1.67 digs per game and serving seven aces. Gaudino averaged 2.75 kpg, led Northridge with eight aces and was second to libero Ali'i Keohohou with 27 digs.

MATADORS IN MPSF OPENERS Northridge heads into Wednesday's MPSF opener at UCLA with a 14-18 (.438) record in conference openers. The Matadors improved to 14-18 with a 3-1 win at No. 11 USC in last season's MPSF opener. Northridge has opened the last three MPSF campaigns on the road and are 2-1 with the lone loss coming at BYU in 2006. The Matadors own a slightly better record of 19-13 (.594) in conference openers at home. Last Friday's 3-1 win over No. 2 UCLA improved Northridge to 21-12 (.636) in season openers and gave the Matadors eight season-opening wins in their last nine seasons.

MATADORS POST FIRST 3-0 START IN FIVE YEARS By winning its first three matches of the season, Northridge is off to its best start since the 2004 season when the Matadors also opened with three consecutive victories on their way to a 19-11 finish.

NEW FACES MAKE IMMEDIATE IMPACT The Matador starting lineup was expected to look different in 2009 with the graduation of seniors Isaac Kneubuhl and Travis Bluemling. Junior outside hitter Mike Gaudino helped lessen the impact by shifting over from the right side hitter spot he held down for the latter half of last season to make room for sophomore Tanner Nua. With the emergence of freshman Matt Stork at setter, head coach Jeff Campbell had one big void left to fill. With Cody Loe not returning at middle blocker, Campbell turned to junior Jacek Ratajczak who had played in just 13 games over his first two seasons at Northridge. Ratajczak proved to be up to the task as he knocked down 26 kills while hitting .362 in three weekend matches. He also contributed 10 total blocks and served three aces. Stork also looked impressive in the first three matches of his collegiate career leading the Matadors to a .290 team hitting percentage collecting 157 assists (13.08 apg) in the process.

UCSB/ELEPHANT BAR RECAP 12 turned out to be the magic number as Northridge won its first UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational title in its 12th try. The Matadors were making their seventh consecutive appearance in the Invitational and 12th appearance since 1996. Not wanting to finish 2-1 as they had five times since 2003, the Matadors knocked off Stanford to capture their first crown. Three wins last weekend gives Northridge a solid 33-23 (.589) record since first playing in the premier men's collegiate tournament in 1996.

SCOUTING UCLA No. 8 UCLA brings a 1-2 overall record (0-0 MPSF) into Wednesday's rematch with the Matadors. The Bruins opened at the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational and dropped their season opener to Northridge in four sets before sweeping Pacific in their second match. On Saturday, UCLA fell to UC Irvine in straight sets in the fifth/sixth place match. Junior OH Brett Perrine had a team-high 11 kills against the Matadors on Friday while senior OH Sean O'Malley had 12 kills in the win over Pacific. Head Coach Al Scates is in his 47th season at UCLA and sports a career record of 1,172-239. Northridge trails 55-10-1 in the all-time series with the Bruins but has won the last three matches between the two teams including a 3-0 win at Pauley Pavilion last April 4.

SCOUTING UC IRVINE No. 5 UC Irvine is 3-1 overall (0-0 MPSF) and hosts No. 9 UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday before entertaining the Matadors on Friday. The Anteaters took fifth place at the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational after falling to Long Beach State (3-0) and defeating BYU (3-1) and UCLA (3-0). Freshman OPP Carson Clark was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 3.60 kills, 1.30 digs and 0.60 blocks over three matches. Clark pounded a team-high 19 kills in his collegiate debut against Long Beach State. Head Coach John Speraw is in his seventh season at UC Irvine and sports a career record of 117-75. Northridge leads 31-15 in the all-time series with the Anteaters but UC Irvine has won six of the last seven matches between the two teams. The Anteaters snapped the Matadors' 14-match winning streak in Irvine last April. 1

UP NEXT Following the two-match, MPSF season-opening trip to UCLA and UC Irvine, the Matadors return to The Matadome for a brief one-match homestand against UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 23. Northridge then heads to Hawai'i for a pair of matches before returning home to open a five-match homestand beginning Feb. 6 against defending MPSF champion Long Beach State.

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