Midweek Showdown with No. 4 UC Irvine opens Two-Match Homestand for Northridge

Jan. 19, 2010

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FOR STARTERS Two top-five teams clash on Wednesday as second-ranked Cal State Northridge (5-0, 2-0 MPSF) hosts No. 4 UC Irvine (4-2, 1-1 MPSF) to open up a two-match homestand. The brief homestand wraps up Friday as the Matadors host No. 10 UCLA (1-4, 0-2 MPSF). Northridge, 1-0 at home this season, has opened the season with five straight wins for the second time in as many seasons and the third time in school history. The Matadors claimed their home opener in three sets over No. 11 UC San Diego last Wednesday then defeated No. 9 Long Beach State in straight sets on Friday at the Walter Pyramid.

SERIES HISTORY Wednesday's match between the Matadors and UC Irvine will be the 50th meeting all-time between the two schools. The Matadors hold a 32-17 advantage in the series but have dropped seven of their last nine matches to the Anteaters. The two teams split two matches last season with each team winning on the other teams' home floor. Friday's match against UCLA is the 69th meeting between the Matadors and Bruins. Despite losing five straight matches to the Matadors, UCLA holds a 55-12-1 edge in the series.

TO RECAP Senior Theo Edwards knocked down a team-high 14 kills while Tanner Nua added 11 and Mike Gaudino chipped in 10 as No. 2 Cal State Northridge swept No. 11 UC San Diego in its home and MPSF opener 30-24,30-26, 30-28 Wednesday at The Matadome. Edwards, who has been instrumental in Northridge's early season success, delivered 14 kills in 24 swings with six errors for a .333 hitting clip and also added a pair of aces. Nua also hit well as he notched 11 kills while hitting .304 while Gaudino bounced back from a rough start to post 10 kills while hitting .286. Jacek Ratajczak and Kevin McKniff, the Northridge middles who were so dominant in the three wins in Santa Barbara, had eight and seven kills respectively. McKniff had a team-high five blocks while Ratajczak matched Edwards with two aces. Matador setter Matt Stork had 46 assists and three digs as Northridge hit .320 (52-19-103). On Friday, Edwards and McKniff combined for 31 of Northridge's 53 kills as the second-ranked Matadors swept No. 9 Long Beach State 30-26, 30-23, 30-27 for their fifth straight win Friday at the Walter Pyramid. Northridge was paced by Edwards who knocked down 17 kills while hitting .395 to go with six digs. McKniff added 14 kills, hitting .619 while fellow senior Jacek Ratajczak chipped in nine kills (.636) and four blocks. Stork registered his second double-double of 2010 (fifth career) with 41 assists and 10 digs and libero Ali'i Keohohou dug 12 49er attacks. As a team, the Matadors hit .366 (53-12-112), served four aces (with just nine errors) and had 38 digs and 9.5 blocks to just 3.0 for the Beach.

MATADORS REMAIN A SOLID SECOND IN AVCA COACHES POLL After jumping an impressive seven spots last week, Northridge remained second for the second straight week in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. The Matadors earned a season-high 222 points and picked up five first-place votes this week, a 15-point improvement from last week. USC (4-1) earned 229 points and nine first-place votes to hold on to the top spot for the third consecutive week. Stanford (2-0), which swept a pair of matches from No. 8 Hawai'i, earned the remaining two first-place votes and is third this week followed by UC Irvine (4-2) and BYU (4-1). Penn State (3-1) is sixth this week followed by Pepperdine (1-2), Long Beach State (2-3), Hawai'i (2-3) and UCLA (1-4). The final five spots in this week's poll go to UC Santa Barbara (1-4), UC San Diego (1-4), Ohio State (1-4), Lewis (1-0) and Saint Francis (3-1). Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 136 consecutive weeks. The last time the Matadors did not rank among the top-15 was the first poll (Jan. 15) of the 2002 season.

NORTHRIDGE OFF TO 5-0 START FOR SECOND TIME IN AS MANY YEARS By defeating No. 9 Long Beach State on Friday, the Matadors have won their first five matches to open the season for the first time since ..... last season. The 2009 Northridge squad also won its first five matches (six overall) before falling at Hawai'i. The last team prior to 2009 to open a season with five straight wins was Walt Ker's 1985 team. The `85 squad defeated UC San Diego, St. Mary's, BYU, San Jose State and UC Davis before falling to USC on their way to a 15-19 season. John Price's 1993 team opened with seven wins in its first eight matches while Jeff Campbell's best start prior to the 2009 season was 2003 when the Matadors opened 6-1.

CAREER RECORDS WATCH Several Matadors are inching their way up the career rankings this season. On his current pace, senior Jacek Ratajczak will finish his career as the all-time leader in hitting percentage (.473) with fellow senior Kevin McKniff (.444) not far behind in third. Senior Mike Gaudino has vaulted to fourth in career aces (101) while senior Ali'i Keohohou has moved up to sixth in career digs (66) and is second in digs per game (2.32). Matt Stork is now eighth in assists (1,836) while McKniff is seventh in career block assists (281) and eighth in total blocks (304).

EDWARDS CONTINUES TO PACE MATADORS Senior Theo Edwards continues to excel is his starting role. Edwards, who stepped in for departed senior and two-time All-American Eric Vance at the outside hitter spot, leads the Matadors with 80 kills (4.44 kpg) and also has seven aces (0.39 sapg), 31 digs (1.72 dpg) and a co-team-high 20 blocks (1.11 bpg). The senior from Northridge matched his career-high with 20 kills in the season opening win over the Gauchos and has 17 kills in two other matches. Edwards has led the Matadors in kills in four of the first matches this season. He currently ranks fourth in the MPSF in points per game (5.53), fifth in kills per game (4.44) and is ninth in aces (0.39 sapg).

MATADORS IMPROVE TO 23-11 IN HOME OPENERS Wednesday's 3-0 win over No. 11 UC San Diego improved Northridge to 23-11 (.676) in 34 home openers dating back to 1977. The Matadors also improved to 21-13 (.618) all-time in conference home openers and 17-18 (486) in MPSF openers. Earlier this season, Northridge improved to 22-12 (.647) all-time in season openers with the four-set win at No. 14 UC Santa Barbara.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES With a pair of 3-0 sweeps last week, the Matadors have now dropped just three games in their first five matches this season. Northridge has now won 15 of its first 18 games ... True freshman Drew Staker has appeared in each of the last four matches and has contributed a block assist in each match ... Sophomore setter Matt Stork, who leads the Matadors with 248 assists (13.78 apg), posted his second double-double of the season with 41 assists and matching his season-high with 10 digs. Stork, who also doubled up against UC Santa Barbara (49 assists, 10 digs), now has four double-doubles in his Northridge career ... After hitting well over .600 over the first three matches, the Matador middles Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak have come back to Earth a bit. Ratajczak still leads the team with a .570 hitting clip with McKniff not far behind at .556. Ratajczak and McKniff rank second and third respectively in the MPSF in hitting percentage ... As a team, Northridge ranks at or near the top in every MPSF category. The Matadors lead in assists (15.39) and kills (16.44) and are second in aces (1.94), digs (10.94) and opponent hitting percentage (.201).

UC IRVINE The fourth-ranked Anteaters (4-2, 1-1) come to Northridge after having their three-match win streak snapped in five-sets to top-ranked USC on Friday. UCI's only other loss came to No. 6 BYU in the first round of the Santa Barbara Invitational. Sophomore OPP Carson Clark leads the Anteaters averaging 5.10 kpg which ranks second in the MPSF. Junior OH Jordan DuFault, this week's MPSF Co-Player of the Week, adds 4.41 kpg while UCI is hitting .344 as a team. Senior MB Bryan Simmons leads the team and is fourth in the MPSF with a 1.41 blocking average. He had a career-high 11 total blocks versus USC, tying his career-high with nine block assists.

SCOUTING UCLA The 10th-ranked Bruins (1-4, 0-2) will host UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday before traveling to Northridge on Friday. UCLA has dropped four straight matches after opening the season with a five-set win over No. 11 UC San Diego. The Bruins dropped their first two MPSF matches at home last week to No. 1 USC (3-1) and No. 7 Pepperdine (3-0). Sophomore OPP Jack Polales leads UCLA averaging 4.07 kpg while senior OH Garrett Muagututia adds 3.95 kpg and has a team-high 79 kills. Kevin Kerr and Kyle Caldwell have shared the setting duties with Kerr averaging 6.18 apg and Caldwell 6.13. The Bruins are hitting .285 as a team.


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