Top-Ranked Matadors Clash With No. 11 UCLA, No. 2 UC Irvine This Week

March 10, 2009

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HOMESTAND CONTINUES AGAINSt 11TH-RANKED UCLA, SECOND-RANKED UC IRVINE Top-ranked Cal State Northridge (15-2, 11-2 MPSF) continues its season-long, seven-match homestand this week as the Matadors host 11th-ranked UCLA (8-11, 4-8 MPSF) on Wednesday and second-ranked UC Irvine (16-3, 11-2 MPSF) on Friday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. Friday's match could turn out to be a battle for the MPSF lead as Northridge comes into the week tied with Pepperdine and UC Irvine atop the conference standings at 11-2. The Matadors ran their current win streak to a season-long nine straight with a pair of 3-0 wins over No. 8 BYU last week in The Matadome.

NORTHRIDGE ON THE NET All Matador home matches and select road matches will be available via Gametracker at

MATADORS POST A PAIR OF SWEEPS OVER NO. 8 BRIGHAM YOUNG Senior Eric Vance knocked down a match-high 15 kills as Cal State Northridge won its first match as the No. 1 team in the country sweeping eighth-ranked BYU, 30-24, 30-28, 30-25 on Thursday. The senior hit .448 in 29 swings to go with a pair of aces and seven digs. Junior Jacek Ratajczak also hit well as posted seven kills with just one error to hit .500. Ratajczak also added four blocks (all assisted) and one ace while Kevin McKniff added seven kills (.286) and team-high's of five blocks (two solo) and three aces. On Friday, the Matadors nailed down their ninth-consecutive win as senior Vance had a match-high 13 kills in the Matadors' 30-28, 30-24, 30-28 victory. The Matadors hit .297 (41-14-91) as a team as Vance led the way with 13 kills and a .345 hitting clip. The senior outside hitter also served a season-high five aces, which is one off his career-high, and contributed a pair of blocks. McKniff added nine kills with just one error in 15 swings for a .533 hitting clip to go with one ace and three block assists.

NORTHRIDGE REMAINS AT THE TOP OF BOTH NATIONAL POLLS A pair of home wins over No. 8 BYU last week kept the Matadors number one for the second straight week in the Bison/AVCA Top 15 poll (Mar. 2). Northridge received 13 of 16 first-place votes and a season-high 234 points this week. The Matadors, who earned a season-high 230 points in last week's (Feb. 23 poll), are the third team to hold the number one spot this season after Pepperdine and Penn State. UC Irvine (16-3) remains second this week followed by Pepperdine (12-2), Penn State (15-1). USC (12-5) and Stanford (14-7) are tied for fifth to round out this week's top five. Spots 7-10 are occupied by Long Beach State (8-8), UC San Diego (8-10), BYU (9-8), and Lewis (12-5). UCLA (8-11), Hawai'i (4-11), UC Santa Barbara (5-12), Ball State (9-4) and Ohio State (7-8) round out this week's top-15 teams.

MATADORS CONTINUE TORRID START Last week's 3-0 sweeps over BYU gave Northridge 15 wins in its first 17 matches. The Matadors already have set the standard for the best start in school history. Last season's Matador team as well as the 1992 and 1993 teams all opened with 13 wins in their first 17 matches. Last year, Northridge posted the school's best record after 20 matches at 16-4. This year's team has also surpassed the 2008 edition for best MPSF start in the Matadors' tenure in the conference. At 11-2, Northridge is one win better that last season (10-3).

HOME SWEET HOME With eight home matches down and seven yet to play, the Matadors can set a school record for home wins in a season. Never in the 32 seasons of Matador men's volleyball has a team gone undefeated at home. The 1991 Northridge squad currently owns the best home mark in school history at 13-1 (.929). Last season's team challenged that mark but Long Beach State defeated the Matadors in the regular season finale and Northridge finished 12-1 (.923). The 2004 and 2007 teams also posted 12 home wins in their respective seasons.

LONGEST STREAK SINCE ... LAST SEASON The Matadors current nine-match winning streak is the longest current streak in the MPSF but pales in comparison to Northridge's school-record 14 straight set from Feb. 8 - Mar. 28 of 2008.

NO DEVIATIONS IN STARTING LINEUP The starting lineup is typically a work in progress as the season goes on. Last season, head coach Jeff Campbell utilized eight different combinations before settling on the lineup that carried the Matadors to the MPSF semifinals. This season, the starting lineup has been etched in stone from day one as the combination of Eric Vance, Mike Gaudino, Kevin McKniff, Jacek Ratajczak, Tanner Nua, Matt Stork and Ali'i Keohohou have started all 17 matches thus far.

CAREER RECORDS UPDATE AND MILESTONES Senior Eric Vance, already in the career top-10 in four categories, can move up the ladder in the next few matches. Vance currently ranks second in career aces (156) trails career leader Eckhard Walter by 27 aces. He ranks seventh in total attacks (3,028) and is just 22 attempts from passing Nils Nielsen (3,049) and moving into sixth place. With 1,367 career kills, Vance is 36 kills away from moving into seventh place and with 586 career digs, is 48 away from eighth place. Junior Ali'i Keohohou, who has 488 career digs, is 67 digs away from entering the Matador top-10. Fellow junior Kevin McKniff, who began the season as a .407 career hitter, has upped that percentage to .418 and currently ranks fourth at Northridge in hitting percentage. With 214 career block assists, McKniff is just 16 away from entering the top-10.

NORTHRIDGE NEWS AND NOTES Last week's pair of 3-0 sweeps over BYU gave the Matadors their first season sweep over the Cougars since 1995. Northridge and BYU have split the season series five times since then while the Cougars swept the Matadors in seven of the next 13 seasons ... Eric Vance, Matt Stork and Jacek Ratajczak continue to lead the MPSF in aces, assists and hitting percentage respectively ... Tanner Nua had his streak of 12 consecutive matches in double figure scoring snapped when he had eight kills for eight points against BYU on Friday. Just five matches ago, Nua accounted for a season-high 25.5 points in Northridge's 3-1 win over Stanford ... With 13 and 15 kills in the two matches against BYU, Vance posted the 70th and 71st times in his career he has posted double figures in kills.

SCOUTING THE BRUINS 11th-ranked UCLA comes into Wednesday's match in Northridge with an 8-11 overall record and the Bruins are 4-8 in the MPSF. UCLA split two matches last week, defeating Grand Canyon (3-0) in a non-conference match before falling in five sets to No. 2 UC Irvine. The Bruins are led by senior OPP Sean O'Malley who has a team-high 183 kills. Redshirt freshman Jack Polales is averaging a team-high 3.65 kills per game while hitting .312. Al Scates (UCLA, 1961) is in his 47th season as head coach at UCLA and sports a 1,179-248 overall and school record. Series Story: The Matadors trail 55-11-1 in the all-time series with the Bruins but have won four straight matches over UCLA. Northridge won both matches last season and defeated the Bruins in four in the season-opener in Santa Barbara and 3-0 in Los Angeles this season.

SCOUTING THE ANTEATERS Second-ranked UC Irvine comes into Friday's match with a 16-3 overall record and the Anteaters are tied with the Matadors at 11-2 in the MPSF. UCI has won four straight including a non-conference win over Loyola-Chicago (3-0) and a 3-2 win at No. 11 UCLA last week. The Anteaters are led by redshirt freshman OPP Carson Clark who averages a team-best 3.80 kpg while sophomore OH Jordan DuFault adds 3.26 kpg. John Speraw (UCLA, 1988) is in his seventh season as head coach at UCI and sports a 131-77 overall and school record. Series Story: The Matadors lead 32-15 in the all-time series with the Anteaters buy UCI has claimed six of the last eight matches. Northridge won in four sets back on Jan. 16 in Irvine.