Third-Ranked Matadors Travel to No. 10 UCSB Wednesday Before Hosting No. 12 Loyola-Chicago Saturday

March 9, 2010

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Match #19

No. 3 Northridge (13-6, 10-6 MPSF) at No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (10-9, 7-6 MPSF)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - 7:00 p.m. Rob Gym (4,000) - Santa Barbara, Calif.

Live Stats: (Gametracker)

Match #20

No. 12 Loyola-Chicago (12-0, 6-0 MIVA) at No. 3 Northridge (13-6, 10-6 MPSF)

Saturday, March 13, 2010 - 7:00 p.m. The Matadome (1,600) - Northridge, Calif.

Live Stats: (Gametracker)

FOR STARTERS Following its two-match home series with Hawai'i, third-ranked Cal State Northridge (13-6, 10-6 MPSF) heads back out on the road for an MPSF match Wednesday at 10th-ranked UC Santa Barbara (10-9, 7-6 MPSF). The Matadors then return home for a non-conference match Saturday against 12th-ranked Loyola-Chicago (12-0, 6-0 MIVA) in The Matadome at 7 p.m. Northridge is 8-3 on the road this season and 5-3 at home. Last week, the Matadors split a pair with Hawai'i winning match one in five before falling in straight sets on Saturday.

SERIES HISTORIES Wednesday's match between the Matadors and UC Santa Barbara will be the 77th meeting all-time between the two schools. The Gauchos hold a 42-34 advantage in the series but the Matadors have won seven straight including a 3-1 win at the season-opening Santa Barbara Invitational. The two teams will meet again in Northridge on Apr. 7. Northridge is 1-1 all-time against Loyola-Chicago, a school out of the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. The Matadors and Ramblers first met in Chicago in 2007 with Loyola pulling out a five-set win. The two teams met again in 2008, also in Chicago, with Northridge winning in five.

TO RECAP Senior Jacek Ratajczak had a career night with 30 kills in 41 swings without an error to propel third-ranked Cal State Northridge to a come-from-behind 30-27, 28-30, 26-30, 30-28, 15-12 win over eighth-ranked Hawai'i Friday at The Matadome. The Matadors won the opener of the two-match set with the visiting Warriors as Ratajczak hit an astounding .732 in a career-high 41 swings. The senior middle blocker from Warsaw, Poland (via New York) also added Northridge's only two aces in the match, two digs and four blocks (one solo). Redshirt freshman John Baker added 15 kills (.364) in his first home start while senior Kevin McKniff added 13 kills (.423) and nine blocks and senior Mike Gaudino chipped in 11 kills (.375), six digs and five blocks. Setter Matt Stork had 69 assists and led the Matadors to a .440 team hitting clip while Ali'i Keohohou posted a match-high 13 digs in the win. Then in a rare Saturday afternoon match, Baker had a team-high 14 kills but third-ranked Cal State Northridge fell in straight sets 35-33, 31-29, 30-19. The Matadors hit .341 in the opening set but struggled on offense thereafter. Hawai'i hit .368 in the match and didn't hit below .310 in any of the three sets. Baker's 14 kills led the Matadors but the freshman hit just .188 with eight errors in 32 attempts. Senior Kevin McKniff also reached double figures with 10 kills (.333) to go with four blocks. Fellow senior Jacek Ratajczak, who knocked down a career-high 30 kills on Friday night, was limited to nine kills while hitting .333. Mike Gaudino also notched nine kills (.273) in the loss.

MATADORS REMAIN THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15 AFTER TWO-MATCH SPLIT WITH HAWAI'I  Following last week's split against eighth-ranked Hawai'i, Cal State Northridge remained third in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. Northridge, which received a season-high 237 points on Feb. 1, earned 198 points this week. The Matadors have now been ranked third for consecutive weeks and the third time this season. Stanford (12-4) became the fourth team this season to hold down the top spot as the Cardinal earned 13 of 16 first-place votes. After two weeks at number one, Pepperdine (10-5) dropped to second earning the three remaining first-place votes. The Matadors remained third followed by BYU (10-7) and Hawai'i (11-6). Long Beach State (9-7) is sixth this week followed by USC (9-6), UCLA (10-9), Penn State (13-2) and UC Santa Barbara (10-9). The final five spots in this week's poll go to UC Irvine (10-10), Loyola-Chicago (12-0), UC San Diego (6-13), Ohio State (12-7) and Lewis (11-4). Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 for 143 consecutive weeks. The last time the Matadors did not rank among the nation's top-15 was the first poll (Jan. 15) of the 2002 season. By earning three number one rankings this season, Northridge has spent a total of six weeks as the number one team in its history.

RATAJCZAK EARNS NORTHRIDGE'S THIRD MPSF PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD Based on his monster performance against No. 8 Hawai'i last weekend, Northridge senior middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak earned the MPSF Co-Player of the Week award after the Matadors split a pair of matches with the Warriors. Ratajczak follows fellow senior middle blocker Kevin McKniff who claimed conference player of the week honors on Jan. 10 and again on Feb. 15. Ratajczak led the third-ranked Matadors to a split in their two-match series with eighth-ranked Hawaii. In Friday¹s win, the senior from Warsaw, Poland pounded a career-high 30 kills with no hitting errors in a career-high 41 swings to hit an astounding .732 hitting. He also had Northridge¹s only two aces in the match to go with four blocks. On Saturday, he was limited to nine kills in 24 swings (.333) but did add two more aces and three blocks. For the week, the senior had 39 kills and one error in 65 attempts to hit .585. For the season, Ratajczak ranks second on the Matadors in kills per game (3.04) and also ranks second in hitting percentage (.475) and blocks per game (1.01).

MATADORS CONTINUE TO EXCEL IN THE MIDDLE The play of Ratajczak and McKniff in the middle has been outstanding all season. The two have combined for 434 kills, the most of any pair of middle blockers in the MPSF. With 434 kills, Ratajczak and McKniff have accounted for nearly 40% of the Matador offensive output this season. Both players rank among the top six hitters in the conference, McKniff second at .482 and Ratajczak sixth at .475 which gives them a combined hitting percentage of .479 for the season.

HOME NOT AS SWEET THIS SEASON Having boasted a 38-7 (.845) record in The Matadome over the last three seasons, the Matadors have counted on winning their share on the home court. But Saturday's straight set loss to Hawai'i dropped Northridge's record at home this season to 5-3 (.625). With five home matches remaining in the regular season (along with five on the road), the Matadors can still post double figure wins at home for the fourth straight season and sixth time in the last seven years. After hosting Loyola on Saturday, Northridge also has home matches remaining with Stanford (Apr. 2), Pacific (Apr. 3), UCSB (Apr. 7) and Penn State (Apr. 10). Typically, the Matadors play a slew of non-conference matches at home during the month of March but head coach Jeff Campbell has scheduled just this week's Loyola match and will give the team 13 days off from match action before heading to Muncie, Ind. to take on Ball State (Mar. 26-27).

NORTHRIDGE NOTES With 10 wins in their first 16 MPSF matches, the Matadors are off to their third-best conference start since the 2003 season. Northridge's 2008 squad won 13 of its first 16 and the 2009 team won 12 of its first 16. Prior the 2008 season, the Matadors had never had a record better than 9-7 after 16 matches ... Senior Theo Edwards has been bothered by a nagging injury over the last few weeks and has seen his team-leading kills per game average dip to 3.60 while his hitting percentage has dropped to .232. After hitting .333 with 17 kills against UC Irvine on Feb. 17, Edwards is averaging 2.29 kpg while hitting .100 over the last five matches. The senior did become the fourth Matador player to surpass 100 digs this season ... Senior libero Ali'i Keohohou and sophomore setter Matt Stork and continue to rank among the top of the MPSF at their respective positions. Keohohou had 25 digs in two matches against Hawai'i and now ranks third in the conference averaging 2.79 dpg. Stork had 113 assists in the two matches and is currently fourth in the MPSF averaging 13.26 apg.

SCOUTING UC SANTA BARBARA (10-9, 7-6 MPSF) The 10th-ranked Gauchos host the Matadors on Wednesday before travelling to Pepperdine on Saturday. Last week, UCSB defeated UC Irvine (3-1) before falling at USC (3-1). The Gauchos are just 2-7 in nine home matches this season. UCSB is led by junior OH Jeff Menzel who leads the MPSF in kills per game (5.50) and points (6.21). Junior MB Scott Slaughter ranks fifth in the conference in hitting at .476 for the Gauchos who are hitting .297 as a team. Northridge is 13-25 all-time against the Gauchos in Santa Barbara.

SCOUTING LOYOLA-CHICAGO (12-0, 6-0 MIVA) The 12th-ranked Ramblers play at Long Beach State and UCLA before coming to Northridge on Saturday. Loyola swept a pair of matches from Quincy last week to remain unbeaten in 12 matches to open the season. Sophomore OH Mike Bunting leads the Ramblers in kills averaging 4.47 per game while hitting .353. Senior OH Kris Berzins adds 3.23 kpg while sophomore OPP Domenic Dewaele has 106 kills (3.42 kpg). The Ramblers are hitting .297 as a team. Northridge and Loyola have never met in The Matadome as both previous matches were played in Chicago.