No. 3 Northridge Wraps Up Home Schedule Against No. 2 Pepperdine and No. 4 USC

March 31, 2009

TOURNAMENT RAMIFICATIONS GALORE AS MATADORS HOST PEPPERDINE, USC THIS WEEK Third-ranked Cal State Northridge (20-4, 13-4 MPSF) wraps up the home portion of the 2009 schedule this week as the Matadors face a pair of crucial matches against No. 2 Pepperdine (16-2, 14-2 MPSF) on Wednesday and No. 4 USC (15-6, 11-5 MPSF) on Friday. Northridge, which split a pair of matches in Northern California last week, is 1.5 games back of MPSF co-leading Pepperdine and UC Irvine who share the top spot at 14-2. The Matadors, who upset top-ranked Pepperdine in five sets on Feb. 25 and defeated USC in three on Feb. 28, are 12-1 on their home floor this season with the lone defeat coming to UC Irvine on Mar. 13.

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

MATADORS FALL TO NO. 7 STANFORD, TOP PACIFIC IN FOUR Four hitters reached double figures, led by senior Eric Vance's 27 kills, but second-ranked Cal State Northridge was upset in four sets by No. 7 Stanford on Friday at Maples Pavilion. Vance's 27 kills were a match-high as the senior hit .298 and added 12 digs for his sixth double-double of the season. Junior Kevin McKniff also had a solid night as he pounded a career-high 19 kills with just two errors in 26 swings. Jacek Ratajczak (.609) added 14 kills without an error in 23 attempts while Tanner Nua chipped in 12 kills but hit just .077. Setter Matt Stork registered his first career double-double with 74 assists and 12 digs in the loss. The Matadors out-hit the Cardinal .350 (82-27-157) to .336 (56-12-131) but were victimized by 35 service errors in the match. Saturday, Vance had 15 kills and Tanner Nua added 11 as Northridge defeated Pacific 30-19, 30-20, 30-27 to nail down its 20th win of the season and keep pace with Pepperdine and UC Irvine.

NORTHRIDGE SLIPS TO THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15 After splitting its two-match road trip to Northern California last week, the Matadors dropped one spot to third in this week's Bison/AVCA Top 15 poll (Mar. 30). The number three national ranking is the first for Northridge this season. The Matadors, who have been ranked second five times this season including the last two weeks, received 200 points this week, down 20 points from last week and 34 points from the season-high 234 points the Matadors received two weeks ago. UC Irvine (19-3), the fourth team to hold the top spot this season, remained number one for the third consecutive week followed by Pepperdine (16-2), the Matadors, USC (15-6) and Stanford (16-8). Spots 6-10 are occupied by BYU (14-9), Long Beach State (10-12), Penn State (20-3), UCLA (10-13), UC San Diego (10-12). Lewis (19-5), UC Santa Barbara (8-14), Hawai'i (6-15), Ohio State (10-9) and Loyola-Chicago (12-8) round out this week's top-15 teams.

MATADORS CLINCH 8TH STRAIGHT MPSF BERTH With 13 conference wins, Northridge has sealed up its eighth consecutive berth in the MPSF Tournament. Four teams (Pepperdine, UC Irvine, Northridge and USC) have so far earned berths in the postseason with four spots yet to be filled. The top four teams in the final conference standings will host Quarterfinal matches when the MPSF Tournament begins on Apr. 25. The highest remaining seed left from the Quarterfinals will host the Semifinals and Finals on Apr. 30 and May 2.

FASTEST EVER TO 20 WINS Since moving up to the NCAA Division I ranks in 1991, four Northridge teams have won 20 or more matches in a season. This season, the Matadors matched the 2008 squad as the fastest teams to 20 wins in school history. Last season, Northridge won 20 of its first 24 matches, the same 20-4 record as this season's squad. The 1991 and 1993 teams also won 20-plus matches. The 1991 team had six losses when they won their 20th and the 1993 squad had nine losses when they nailed down their 20th win. Northridge's 1979 team also won 20 matches, finishing 20-8 while the 1982 team finished 21-14 under Walt Ker.

MCKNIFF-RATAJCZAK 1-2 IN MPSF HITTING Junior middles Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak have consistently moved up the MPSF hitting percentage rankings all season. This week, the pair sit 1-2 among conference hitting percentage leaders. On the strength of hitting .654 at Stanford and .625 at Pacific, McKniff moved to the top spot in the conference at .490. Ratajczak hit .609 and .417 in two matches last week and is second to McKniff at .476. If the season ended today, McKniff and Ratajczak would be second and third in season hitting percentage in Northridge history. James Lischer owns the season record after hitting .500 in 388 attacks as a sophomore in 2005. McKniff's previous season-high in hitting came in 2008 when he hit .409 in 450 swings as a sophomore. McKniff is now a career .432 hitter in his third season.

VANCE IS LONE SENIOR ON SENIOR NIGHT Friday's match against USC marks the final regular season home match for the Matadors in 2009. It also marks the final regular season home match for the lone senior on the roster, Eric Vance. Vance, who will etch his name into the Matador career record books in several categories before the season is over, will go down as one of the finest players in Matador history.

NATIONAL LEADERS As a team the Matadors are the national leaders in three of the seven team categories. Northridge continues to lead the nation in kills per game (16.65), aces per game (2.07) and assists per game (15.4). The Matadors also rank third in team hitting percentage (.338) which trails only Penn State (.387) and Pepperdine (.346). Individually, freshman setter Matt Stork continues as the national leader in assists per game at 14.08 apg while senior Eric Vance ranks third in aces (0.56) and is sixth in kills (5.35). Jacek Ratajczak ranks third in hitting at .476.

SERVICE ACES, SERVICE WOES While service aces have been abundant for the Matadors in 2009 (178 in 24 matches). the service error bug bit Northridge in a major way on Friday. The Matadors committed a season-high 35 service errors in the four-set loss and 33 serving miscues were a big factor in Northridge's five set loss in Hawai'i on Jan. 30. In all, the Matadors have committed 581 service errors this season to 357 for their opponents.

SCOUTING THE WAVES Second-ranked Pepperdine comes into Wednesday's match with a 16-2 overall record and the Waves are tied for first in the MPSF at 14-2. Pepperdine has won seven straight matches including wins over No. 9 UC San Diego and No. 6 Long Beach State last week. The Waves are led by senior OPP Paul Carroll who averages a team-high 6.03 kills per game. Carroll leads the nation, and MPSF, in kills per game. Marv Dunphy (Pepperdine, 1974) is in his 26th season as head coach at Pepperdine and sports a 485-186 overall and school record. Series Story:The Matadors trail 46-18 in the all-time series with the Waves but have beaten Pepperdine two straight times including a five-set decision Feb. 25 in Malibu. Northridge is 10-18 all-time against Pepperdine in The Matadome.

SCOUTING THE TROJANS USC, which travels to UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday before coming to Northridge on Friday, brings an overall record of 15-6 (11-5 MPSF) into this week's action. The Trojans defeated No. 6 Long Beach State (3-1) and No. 9 UC San Diego (3-0) last week and have now won four of their last six matches. USC is led by sophomore OH Murphy Troy who averages a team-best 4.83 kpg while freshman OH Tony Ciarelli adds 3.26 kpg. Bill Ferguson is in his third season as head coach at USC and sports a 40-38 overall and school record. Series Story: The Matadors trail 36-23 in the all-time series with the Trojans but have won the last 13 matches between the two teams. Northridge is 9-16 all-time against USC in The Matadome.

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