Second-Ranked Matadors Open Home and MPSF Season Wednesday vs. No. 11 UC San Diego

Jan. 13, 2010

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FOR STARTERS Second-ranked Cal State Northridge (3-0, 0-0 MPSF) opens the home as well as the MPSF season Wednesday as the Matadors host No. 11 UC San Diego (1-2, 0-0 MPSF). Northridge then heads to No. 9 Long Beach State on Friday as MPSF action continues. The Matadors claimed their second consecutive Santa Barbara Invitational championship as senior middle blocker Kevin McKniff earned tournament MVP honors and fellow middle Jacek Ratajczak was named all-tournament. Northridge opened with a hard-fought, four-set win over No. 14 UC Santa Barbara Thursday morning before taking care of NAIA power Cal Baptist in four sets Thursday night. Thursday's wins vaulted the Matadors into the championship match where Northridge defeated No. 6 BYU also in four sets.

SERIES HISTORY Wednesday's match between the Matadors and UC San Diego is the 66th meeting all-time between the two schools. The Matadors hold a 59-6 advantage in the series and have won the last 34 matches since the Tritons defeated Northridge on Jan. 20, 1988. Friday's match in Long Beach is the 62nd meeting between the Matadors and 49ers. Long Beach holds a 34-27 edge in the series but Northridge has won seven of the last nine matches.

NORTHRIDGE CLAIMS SECOND STRAIGHT SANTA BARBARA INVITATIONAL Friday's 3-1 win over BYU gave the Matadors their second straight Santa Barbara Invitational championship. Prior to 2009, Northridge had competed in the annual Santa Barbara tournament 11 times without winning a championship but by winning six straight matches over the last two season, the Matadors improved their record to 36-23 (.610) all-time. 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 opened this season's tournament with a 3-1 win over host and 14th-ranked UC Santa Barbara. Northridge then advanced to the second round to meet NAIA power Cal Baptist. After two tough sets, the Matadors pulled away winning 30-19 in each of the final two sets setting up the title match showdown with BYU. Against the Cougars, Northridge again won in four sets with a dominating 30-19 win in the final set. Senior Kevin McKniff earned tournament MVP honors becoming the second Matador player in two years to claim MVP honors (Eric Vance was MVP in 2009). Fellow senior Jacek Ratajczak was also named to the All-Tournament team.

MATADORS JUMP TO SECOND IN AVCA PRESEASON COACHES POLL After opening the season ranked ninth in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Top-15 Poll, Northridge jumped seven spots to second after winning all three matches at the Santa Barbara Invitational. The Matadors earned 207 points and picked up five first-place votes this week and follow only USC (217 pts, six first-place votes) in the poll. Northridge, which garnered 112 points in the preseason poll despite finishing 24-7 in 2009, earned its highest ranking Apr. 20 of last season when the Matadors were also second. Stanford (0-0) and UC Irvine (3-1) tied for third as each team earned 201 points. The Cardinal picked up three first-place votes despite not yet playing a match while the Anteaters picked up the remaining two first-place votes. BYU (2-1)  rounded out the top-five with 187 points. Penn State (2-1) is sixth this week followed by Pepperdine (0-1), Hawai'i (2-1), Long Beach State (1-2) and UCLA (1-2). The final five spots in this week's poll go to Ohio State (0-3), UC San Diego (1-2) who tied for 11th, Ball State (0-0), UC Santa Barbara (0-3) and Lewis (0-0).

MCKNIFF EARNS SEASON'S FIRST MPSF PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD Senior Kevin McKniff added to his early season award haul as the Santa Barbara Invitational MVP was named the season's first MPSF Co-Player of the Week for the 2010 season. McKniff averaged 3.75 kills per game while hitting an astounding .606. He had 45 kills and just two hitting errors in 71 swings while also adding four aces and 13 total blocks. The senior had 16 kills while hitting .652 in the season-opening win over No. 14 UCSB, then had 14 kills (.636), four aces and five blocks in the second round win over Cal Baptist. McKniff capped the tournament with 15 kills, hitting .538 to go with five digs and three blocks in the title match win over BYU. McKniff was named Santa Barbara Invitational MVP for his efforts.

EDWARDS MAKES THE MOST OF OPPORTUNITY Senior Theo Edwards had big shoes to fill as he stepped onto the court Thursday at UC Santa Barbara. Edwards was replacing departed senior and two-time All-American Eric Vance at the outside hitter spot and Edwards did more than hold his own. The senior from Northridge, who had just six career starts, led the Matadors in the three matches with 49 kills (4.08 kpg) while hitting .243. Edwards took a Matador team-high 115 swings in three Northridge wins while also contributing four aces, 23 digs (1.92 dpg) and 13 total blocks which matches McKniff for team-high honors. He matched his career-high with 20 kills in the season opening win over the Gauchos and after a slow start had 12 kills and 17 kills over the final two matches.

ACES HIGH FOR MATADORS AFTER THREE MATCHES Northridge has picked up where it left off in terms of aces after three matches in 2010. The Matadors, who shattered the school record with 225 aces last season, have 25 aces after three matches this season. Junior Tanner Nua paces Northridge with eight aces (0.67 sapg) while Edwards and McKniff both have four. Matt Stork and Mike Gaudino have three each as the Matadors have out-aced their opponents 25-10.

MATADORS IN HOME OPENERS Northridge heads into Wednesday's home opener against UC San Diego with a 22-11 (.667) record in 33 home openers. The Matadors are well over .500 (20-13) all-time in conference home openers dating back to 1977. Northridge can improve to 16-18 in MPSF openers with a win over No. 11 UC San Diego on Wednesday. With the four-set win over UCSB on Jan. 7, the Matadors improved to 22-12 (.647) all-time in season openers.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES The Matadors have opened 3-0 for the second time in two seasons and the fifth time in the history of the program. Last season, Northridge opened with six consecutive wins before being upset in two matches at Hawai'i ... The Matadors produced a solid opening weekend of hitting as the team combined to hit .342 over the first three matches. The middle duo of McKniff-Ratajczak was virtually unstoppable as the two combined to hit .610 with 82 kills and just seven hitting errors in 123 attacks ... True freshman Drew Staker, redshirt freshman Ashton Hippenstiel and sophomore transfer Jim Wielebnicki each made his Matador debut in matches at the Santa Barbara Invitational. Staker collected a block assists against BYU in the title match.

SCOUTING UC SAN DIEGO The 11th-ranked Tritons (1-2, 0-0 MPSF) come to Northridge having lost two of three at the Santa Barbara Invitational last week. UC San Diego opened with a five-set loss to UCLA, then dropped a four-set decision to UC Irvine. The Tritons capped the tourney with a five-set win over the host Gauchos. UC San Diego is led by Frank Fritsch with 3.79 kills per set while Will Ehrman adds 3.38 kills per set. Phil Bannan adds 11.89 assists per set while Chase Frishman leads the Tritons with 1.82 digs per set. Erik Sierks has also seen action at setter with 13.60 assists per set. The Tritons have lost their last four MPSF openers, with the last win coming against USC to begin the 2004 conference slate.

SCOUTING LONG BEACH STATE The No. 9 49ers (1-2, 0-0 MPSF) open the MPSF schedule with a road match at UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday before hosting the Matadors on Friday. Long Beach State opened the 2010 season in Santa Barbara where it competed in the Santa Barbara Invitational last Thursday and Friday. The 49ers opened the tournament with a 3-2 loss to NAIA power California Baptist before handing host UCSB a 3-2 loss in the nightcap Thursday. LBSU then dropped the fifth-place match losing to defending national champion UC Irvine 3-1 on Friday. The Beach won the first set against the Anteaters, but couldn't hold on.


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