April 20, 2010

No. 3 Matadors Host No. 6 USC in MPSF Tournament Quarterfinals on Saturday

April 20, 2010

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MATADOR VOLLEYBALL THIS WEEK

MPSF Tournament - Quarterfinals

No. 6 USC (16-10, 13-9 MPSF) at No. 3 Northridge (21-8, 15-7 MPSF)

Saturday, April 24, 2010 - 7 p.m. PDT

The Matadome (1,600) - Northridge, Calif.

Live Stats: GoMatadors.com (Gametracker)

Live Internet Broadcast: mpsports.org (Al Epstein - play-by-play)

FOR STARTERS Cal State Northridge (21-8, 15-7 MPSF) opens the 2010 MPSF Tournament at home against the USC Trojans (16-10, 13-9 MPSF) Saturday, Apr. 24 at 7 p.m. The Matadors, seeded third in the eight-team tournament, have won eight of their last 10 matches including a crucial split at second-ranked BYU last weekend. The sixth-seeded Trojans have won six of their last seven and are looking to defend their MPSF Tournament championship from 2009. The winner of Saturday's match will advance to the MPSF semifinals on Apr. 29 and take on the winner of the UCLA-BYU quarterfinal match.

SERIES HISTORY Saturday's match between the Matadors and USC is the 63rd meeting all-time between the two schools. The Trojans hold a 36-26 advantage in the series but Northridge has won a staggering 16 straight matches over the Trojans. The Matadors have not lost to USC since the 2004 season and won both matches this season (3-2 in Northridge and 3-1 at USC). The Matadors and Trojans have met in the postseason three times since 1990. Northridge defeated USC in the MPSF quarterfinals in 1993 and also won a Play-in match over the Trojans in The Matadome in 2007.

TO RECAP After dropping the opener of a crucial two-match series at second-ranked BYU on Friday, third-ranked Cal State Northridge battled back to win the series finale in five on Saturday. In Friday's loss, Kevin McKniff had a team-high 14 kills while hitting a team-high .458. Jacek Ratajczak added 11 kills (.444) and John Baker chipped in nine kills but hit just .087. Matt Stork had 40 assists and a team-high six digs in the loss. On Saturday, Jacek Ratajczak led four Matador hitters in double figures with 17 kills as Northridge claimed a top-four MPSF finish with the 28-30, 31-29, 30-27, 28-30, 15-10 win. Ratajczak hit .433 on his way to 17 kills and also added three aces for the Matadors who had five aces in the match after having none in Friday's straight set loss. Fellow middle Kevin McKniff added 16 kills and seven blocks and the MPSF's leading hitter wound up at .600. Northridge also got 15 kills from Tanner Nua and 13 from Mike Gaudino with each also adding three blocks.

NORTHRIDGE REMAINS THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15 HEADING INTO MPSF TOURNAMENT Following a two-match split at No. 2 BYU, Cal State Northridge solidified its hold on third in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. Northridge, which received a season-high 237 points on Feb. 1, earned 210 points this week and have now been ranked third in consecutive weeks and seven times this season. Stanford (19-6) remained number one for the sixth straight week earning 13 of 16 first-place votes. BYU (21-8) remained second picking up two first-place votes followed by Northridge, Hawai'i (18-9) and Pepperdine (16-9). USC (16-10) is sixth followed by UCLA (16-13), UC Irvine (15-14) in seventh, UC Santa Barbara (13-16) is ninth and Ohio State (20-7) moves into 10th. Long Beach State (12-17) slips to 11th followed by Penn State (21-7), Ball State (18-10), UC San Diego (11-19) and Loyola-Chicago (18-5) rounds out this week's top 15. Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 for 149 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.

MATADORS NAIL DOWN FIRST-EVER SECOND PLACE FINISH By splitting two matches at BYU last weekend, the Matadors finished in a tie for second in the final MPSF regular season standings, the best finish ever by a Northridge team in the MPSF. The Matadors finished third in 1992, 1993, 2008 and 2009 and also finished in a tie for third in 1996. The last team to finish as high as second was the 1991 Northridge squad that finished second to UCLA in the WIVA's DeGroot Division. From 1993 to 2001, the 12 MPSF teams were split into two divisions (Mountain and Pacific) but since 2002, all 12 MPSF teams compete in the same division. The Matadors also nailed down 20+ wins for the third consecutive season and seventh time in school history.

NORTHRIDGE IN THE MPSF TOURNAMENT Cal State Northridge has earned its ninth consecutive berth and 13th trip overall to the MPSF Tournament. Northridge has advanced the MPSF semifinals in each of the last two seasons. The Matadors defeated BYU in the quarterfinals last season at The Matadome before falling to Pepperdine in the semifinals at UC Irvine. In 2008, Northridge also won a quarterfinal match at home defeating Stanford before being ousted by BYU in the semifinals at Long Beach State. The Matadors are 5-8 in the postseason in Jeff Campbell's tenure as head coach.

THE MPSF TOURNAMENT FIELD By winning the MPSF regular season, Stanford (16-6) earned the right to host the conference tournament should the Cardinal get past eighth-seed UC Irvine in the quarterfinals. Other quarterfinal matchups on Saturday include fourth-seed Hawai'i hosting fifth-seed Pepperdine and seventh-seed UCLA traveling to second-seed BYU. Saturday's quarterfinal winners will gather on the home court of the top remaining seed for the semifinals on Thursday, Apr. 29.

MCKNIFF LEADS MPSF IN HITTING Senior Kevin McKniff wound up the regular season as the top hitter in the MPSF. McKniff, who hit a Northridge single-season record .505 in the regular season, easily out-percentaged Long Beach State's Antwain Aguillard (.487) who led the conference in hitting several times this season. Matador teammate Jacek Ratajczak was third at .460 and the Northridge middle duo of McKniff-Ratajczak wound up hitting a combined .482 with 647 kills and 109 errors in 1,117 attacks in the regular season.

MATADOR CAREER MILESTONES Several Matador players, in addition to head coach Jeff Campbell, have reached career milestones during the 2010 season. Campbell posted the 200th win of his career when Northridge swept Long Beach State at home on Feb. 11. With 12 total blocks against BYU, McKniff passed the 400 career blocks plateau. With 251 digs this season, Mike Gaudino has surpassed 750 career digs. With a career-best 322 kills this season, Ratajczak has gone over 600 kills for his career. Sophomore Matt Stork, who has started every match in his first two seasons at Northridge, has gone over 3,000 assists and 300 digs in his Matador career. Ali'i Keohohou, with 263 digs this season, is closing in on 900 career digs.

WIELEBNICKI CONTRIBUTES IN A BIG WAY Sophomore Jim Wielebnicki made a crucial contribution to the Matador success this season in the span of two minutes at BYU. The transfer from Santa Barbara City College had played in just 13 matches and 20 games heading into last weekend's set at BYU. But after being inserted into the lineup midway through the fifth and deciding set in Saturday's finale, Wielebnicki had a hand in three of the biggest points in the match. After the Cougars had closed to within 10-9, he silenced the huge BYU crowd with a kill on a scattered play then stepped to the service line and served an ace followed by another tough serve resulting in a Mike Gaudino kill and the Matadors had the lead for good at 13-9.

CSUN-USC (A CLOSER LOOK) The Matadors and Trojans last met in the MPSF Tournament in 2007 with Northridge winning in three sets at home. The Matadors won this season's first meeting 3-2 in Northridge on Feb. 3 and then won in four at USC on Feb. 24. The Matadors, 10-3 at home this season, are 11-16 all-time against the Trojans in The Matadome. USC is 6-6 on the road in 2010 and has split its last six road matches. Northridge has won three straight MPSF Tournament matches at home dating back to 2007. USC won three straight road matches on its way to the MPSF Tournament championship in 2009.

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