Matadors Host No. 10 UC Santa Barbara in Home Opener on Friday

Jan. 21, 2009

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NORTHRIDGE OPENS UP THE HOME SCHEDULE AGAINST No. 10 UC SANTA BARBARA ON FRIDAY Second-ranked Cal State Northridge (5-0, 2-0 MPSF) returns home after playing its first five matches of the 2009 season on the road as the Matadors host No. 10 UC Santa Barbara Friday at 7 p.m. Northridge, which plays seven of its first eight matches on the road, remained unbeaten this season after opening the MPSF season with wins at No. 8 UCLA and No. 5 UC Irvine last week. The stretch of road matches ends in Hawai'i next week as the Matadors travel to the Big Island to take on the Warriors in a pair of matches (Jan. 30-31).

MATADORS OPEN MPSF PLAY WITH ROAD WINS AT UCLA, UC IRVINE Senior All-American Eric Vance pounded a match-high 18 kills to go with 10 digs as No. 2 Cal State Northridge topped No. 8 UCLA in the MPSF opener for both teams at Pauley Pavilion. Vance hit an impressive .412 in the match with 18 kills and just four hitting errors in 34 swings. He completed his first double-double of the 2009 season and eighth of his career by adding a match-high 10 digs. Tanner Nua added eight kills (.267) and Kevin McKniff chipped in seven kills (1.000) and a match-high five blocks. Matador setter Matt Stork posted 35 assists and three digs and libero Ali'i Keohohou posted seven digs. Northridge continued its torrid hitting as the Matadors hit .357 (42-12-84) in the win. On Friday at No. 2 UC Irvine, Vance pounded a season-high 25 kills and McKniff added 10 kills and eight blocks as Northridge remained unbeaten with a 25-30, 30-26, 30-27, 30-25 win at the Bren Center. Vance led all hitters with 25 kills as the senior hit .364 in 55 attacks. He completed his second consecutive double-double by adding 10 digs to go with a pair of aces which gives him 133 aces in his Northridge career. McKniff posted season-high's in kills (10) and blocks (8.0) while Jacek Ratajczak and Nua each chipped in 11 kills. Stork registered a season-high 60 assists while Mike Gaudino added eight kills, 13 digs and nine blocks. Three Matadors reached double figures in digs led by Keohohou's 14.

NORTHRIDGE REMAINS SECOND IN BOTH NATIONAL POLLS After two more road wins improved their season record to 5-0, the Matadors remained a solid second in the second Bison/AVCA poll of the season released Jan. 19. Northridge earned a season-high 223 points this week after picking up 220 points last week. Prior to last week, 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 for the second consecutive week and holds the top spot with 240 total points. Stanford (5-1), Pepperdine (3-0) and UC Irvine (4-2) round out this week's top five teams. Spots 6-10 are occupied by USC (3-1), Long Beach State (2-2), UCLA (2-3), BYU (2-3) and UC Santa Barbara (2-3). Northridge was also second in the first Molten/Volleyball Magazine poll of 2009 after earning 75 points.

MATADORS 5-0 FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1985 Not since Walt Ker's 1985 Northridge team had the Matadors opened a season with five consecutive wins. 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 this season was 2003 when the Matadors opened 6-1.

MATADORS IN HOME OPENERS Northridge heads into Friday's home opener against UCSB with a 21-11 (.656) overall record in home openers. The Matadors are also well over .500 (19-13) in conference home openers dating back to 1977. Northridge improved to 15-18 in MPSF season openers with a 3-0 win at No. 8 UCLA last week and Jan. 9's 3-1 win over No. 2 UCLA improved Northridge to 21-12 (.636) in season openers.

Eric Vance ON THE CAREER CHARTS With an exceptional start to his 2009 season, senior Eric Vance looks to further etch his name into the Matador career record book. Vance heads into this week's match just 17 kills behind Dan Rhodes and 10th-place in career kills. With 220 total attacks in the first five matches this season he has moved into ninth place in career attempts with 2,562. Already second in career aces, Vance has added 10 to his ledger this season and now trails career-leader Eckhard Walter by 49 aces. He also figures to crack the top 10 in career digs as he trails Matt Unger for 10th place by 46 digs. Vance is off to the best start of his career as he is averaging a career-best 5.42 kpg while hitting a career-best .345. On defense, the two-time MPSF and current AVCA Player of the Week is averaging a career-best 2.11 digs per game.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES The three-game sweep over No. 8 UCLA was the Matadors' first sweep in five wins this season. Northridge's other four wins have come in four games ... Junior middle blockers Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak have turned out very similar numbers after five matches. McKniff has 42 kills and 11 errors in 67 swings while Ratajczak has 41 kills and 12 errors in 74 attacks. The two have combined to hit .426 from the middle while contributing 43 total blocks ... Always a strong serving team, the Matadors are out-serving their opponents 36 aces to 22 or an average of 1.90 to 1.16 per game ... Freshman setter Matt Stork has certainly not been awed by his first two weeks of collegiate action. Stork, the son of U.S. Olympian and current Matador women's coach Jeff Stork, is averaging 13.26 assists per game which ranks second in the MPSF after two weeks. Northridge is also hitting .290 as a team which ranks fourth among the 12 teams in the conference.

SCOUTING UC SANTA BARBARA No. 10 UC Santa Barbara brings a 2-3 overall record (0-2 MPSF) into Friday's rematch with the Matadors. The Gauchos finished third after winning two of three at their own UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational to open the season but have since dropped a home match to UC Irvine and a road match at UCLA. Sophomore OH Jeff Menzel averages a team-high 6.17 kills per game which ranks second in the MPSF. Menzel had 27 kills against the Matadors on Jan. 9 in Santa Barbara. Head Coach Rick McLaughlin is in his first season at UC Santa Barbara and sports a record of 2-3. McLaughlin is 62-129 in nine seasons as a head coach. Northridge trails 42-31 in the all-time series with the Gauchos but has won the last four matches between the two teams including a 3-1 win at The Matadome last March.

UP NEXT Following Friday's home opener against No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, Northridge 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.