April 7, 2009

Matadors Begin Season-Ending Road Trip Friday at No. 10 UC San Diego

April 7, 2009

MATADORS TRAVEL TO UC SAN DIEGO, LONG BEACH STATE AS REGULAR SEASON WINDS DOWN Third-ranked Cal State Northridge (21-5, 14-5 MPSF) opens its penultimate road trip of the regular season this week as the Matadors travel to No. 10 UC San Diego (11-13, 7-12 MPSF) on Friday and No. 8 Long Beach State (11-13, 8-11 MPSF) on Saturday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. Northridge wraps up the regular season on Apr. 17 at UC Santa Barbara. The Matadors, who hold the third spot in the MPSF standings, are 6-3 on the road this season after wrapping up another successful home season at 13-2.

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

MATADORS NEARLY UPSET NO. 2 PEPPERDINE BEFORE TOPPING NO. 4 USC In front of the largest home crowd of the season, third-ranked Cal State Northridge battled back from a two-set deficit but could not complete the comeback as second-ranked Pepperdine pulled out a 30-28, 31-29, 28-30, 35-37, 15-12 victory Wednesday at The Matadome. Senior All-American Eric Vance led Northridge with a match and season-high 33 kills. Vance, who hit an impressive .518 in 56 swings, notched his seventh double-double of the season by adding 12 digs. Junior Mike Gaudino also had a solid night as he posted a career-high 24 kills (.356) to go with nine digs, three blocks and a pair of aces. Junior Jacek Ratajczak also reached double figures in kills with 10 (.429) and had a match-high seven blocks (one solo). On Friday, Vance capped a senior night performance a match-high 26 kills as Northridge held off No. 4 USC 30-27, 30-28, 29-31, 30-21. Vance had 26 kills and just four errors in 51 swings to hit .431 against the Trojans. Junior Mike Gaudino added 13 kills (.286) eight digs and four blocks while Jacek Ratajczak chipped in 10 kills (.421) and a pair of block assists.

MATADORS REMAIN THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15 After splitting two matches to conclude the regular season home schedule last week, Northridge remained third in this week's Bison/AVCA Top 15 poll (Apr. 6). The Matadors, who are third for the second straight week, received 204 points in this week's poll. Northridge earned season-high 234 points on Mar. 9 when the Matadors were number one for the second time this season. Pepperdine (18-2) took over the top spot this week followed by UC Irvine (20-4), who held the top spot for three weeks. Northridge is third followed by USC (16-7) and Stanford (19-8). Spots 6-10 are occupied by BYU (15-10), Penn State (21-3), Long Beach State (11-13), UCLA (12-13), UC San Diego (11-13). Ohio State (12-9), Lewis (19-6), UC Santa Barbara (8-16), Hawai'i (6-17), Ball State (14-8) and Loyola-Chicago (12-9) round out this week's top-15 teams.

MPSF TOURNAMENT PICTURE The Matadors are currently third in the MPSF standings, trailing Pepperdine by 2.5 games and second-place UC Irvine by 1.5 games. Northridge is 1.5 games in front of both USC and Stanford with BYU the sixth team to clinch a postseason berth. The final two playoff spots will go to either Long Beach State, UCLA or UC San Diego. The Matadors need to win all three of their remaining matches to assure themselves of at least a third place finish. If Northridge drops one of its final three matches and Stanford wins its final four, the Cardinal would gain the third spot by tiebreaker. If the season ended today, the Matadors would host the sixth-seed BYU in a quarterfinal match on Apr. 25.

GAUDINO AGAINST PEPPERDINE Junior Mike Gaudino has had two of his best matches this season against Pepperdine. Gaudino had 17 kills, five digs and two aces while hitting .424 as the Matadors won in Malibu on Feb. 25. The win was Northridge's first at Firestone Fieldhouse since 1996. Despite falling in five sets last Wednesday, Gaudino notched a career-high 24 kills in a career-high 45 swings to hit .356. He also added nine digs, two aces and three blocks. In the two matches against the Waves, Gaudino averaged 4.10 kills per game while hitting .385. He also served up four aces and had 14 digs.

VANCE NAMED MPSF CO-POW FOR 3RD TIME Senior outside hitter Eric Vance has been named MPSF Co-Player of the Week for his efforts in third-ranked Cal State Northridge's two matches last week. Vance, who also earned Co-Player of the Week honors on Jan. 12 and Jan. 19, shares the honor with Pepperdine's Rodnei Santos this week. Vance helped the Matadors salvage a split in two key MPSF matches last week. In Wednesday's five-set loss to No. 2 Pepperdine, Vance had a season-high 33 kills in 56 swings to hit an impressive .518. He also added 12 digs to notch his seventh double- double of the season. Vance accounted for 33.5 of the Matadors 101 points in the match. On Friday against No. 4 USC, he put down 26 kills with just four errors in 51 swings to hit .431. He also added three aces, giving him 50 for the season, and seven digs. For the week, Vance averaged 6.56 kills per game while hitting .477. He also averaged 2.11 digs per game, 0.33 service aces per game and 7.00 points per game.

CAREER AND SEASON RECORDS Several Matadors have made inroads in the career records over the past week. Junior libero Ali'i Keohohou moved into 10th-place in career digs with 563 surpassing Matt Unger (555). His digs per game average (2.25) currently ranks third. With 260 digs this season, Keohohou moved into a tie for fourth on the Matador single season charts. Kevin McKniff improved his career hitting percentage to .430 which currently ranks third all-time and the junior moved into a tie for ninth in career block assists with 238. Mike Gaudino's 92 career aces is good for a tie for fifth all-time while senior Eric Vance continues to cement his name in Northridge lore. Vance is now just nine aces shy of becoming the all-time Matador leader in service aces. Eckhard Walter has held the top spot since 2002 with 183 career aces but Vance is closing quickly with 174. He also ranks fifth in both kills (1,551) and total attempts (3,356) and is seventh in career digs with 644.

SCOUTING THE TRITONS 10th-ranked UC San Diego comes into Friday's match with a 11-13 overall record and the Tritons are ninth in the MPSF at 7-12. UCSD enters the week just one game out of the eighth and final playoff spot, trailing Long Beach State. UCSD is led by a trio of players averaging over 3.00 kills per set. Frank Fritsch leads the way with 3.60 kills per set while Will Ehrman averages 3.34 kills per set. Kevin Ring (UCSD, 1996) is in his fourth season as head coach at UC San Diego and sports a 28-82 overall and school record. Series Story:The Matadors lead 58-6 in the all-time series with the Tritons and have beaten UC San Diego 33 consecutive times including a straight-set decision Feb. 7 in Northridge. The Matadors are 29-4 all-time against the Tritons at RIMAC Arena.

SCOUTING THE 49ERS Eighth-ranked Long Beach State, which hosts UCSB on Friday and the Matadors on Saturday, comes into the week with an overall record of 11-13 and are 8-11 in the MPSF. The 49ers currently hold the eighth and final spot in the MPSF Tournament. Long Beach is led by junior OPP Dean Bittner who ranks second in the MPSF averaging a team-best 5.48 kpg. Sophomore OH Josh Riley adds 3.41 kpg while Long Beach is hitting .276 as a team. Alan Knipe is in his ninth season as head coach at Long Beach State and sports a 166-102 overall and school record. Series Story: The Matadors trail 33-27 in the all-time series with the 49ers but have won seven of the last eight matches between the two teams including a 3-0 win in The Matadome on Feb. 6. Northridge is 9-14 all-time against Long Beach in the Walter Pyramid.

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