April 27, 2010

Down to Four at MPSF Tournament as Northridge Takes on BYU in Semifinals

April 27, 2010

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MATADOR VOLLEYBALL THIS WEEK

MPSF Tournament - Semifinals

No. 3 Northridge (22-8) vs. No. 2 BYU (22-8)

Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 5 p.m. PDT

Maples Pavilion (7,223) - Stanford, Calif.

Live Stats: GoStanford.com

Live Webcast: GoStanford.com

FOR STARTERS It's down to four at the MPSF Tournament as Cal State Northridge (22-8, 15-7 MPSF) meets the BYU Cougars (22-8, 15-7 MPSF) in the first of two MPSF semifinal matches Thursday at 5 p.m. at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. The Matadors, seeded third, advanced to the semifinals after defeating No. 6 USC in four sets Saturday at The Matadome. The Cougars, seeded second, defeated UCLA in four sets at home to reach the semifinals. Top-seeded Stanford hosts fourth-seeded Hawai'i in the second semifinal 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first match. The two winners will meet for the MPSF Championship and the automatic berth into the NCAA Championships.

SERIES HISTORY Thursday's match will be the 51st meeting all-time between Northridge and BYU and the third match between the two teams in the last two weeks. The Matadors and Cougars split two matches in Provo, Utah Apr. 16-17 and Northridge claimed the first meeting on Jan. 8 in Santa Barbara. The Matadors have won five of the last six matches against BYU but trail 28-22 overall in the series which dates back to 1984. Northridge and BYU also met in the semifinals of the 2008 MPSF Tournament at Long Beach State with the Cougars coming out on top 3-0. The Matadors defeated BYU in four sets in the MPSF quarterfinals last season in The Matadome.

TO RECAP Jacek Ratajczak led No. 3 Cal State Northridge with 19 kills as the Matadors advanced to the MPSF Tournament semifinals with a hard-fought 30-17, 31-33, 33-31, 30-26 quarterfinal win over No.6 USC Saturday at The Matadome. Ratajczak, who hit .500 with just one error in 36 swings, also added nine blocks (two solo) and one ace. Senior Theo Edwards added 11 kills (.192) and three blocks and fellow senior Mike Gaudino chipped in 10 kills (.156), 12 digs and three aces. Kevin McKniff had a tough hitting night with eight kills (.125) but served a match-high four aces. Matador libero Ali'i Keohohou had a team-high 13 digs while Matt Stork dished out 52 assists to go with nine digs and five blocks. Northridge out-hit USC .240 (60-24-150) to .112 (57-40-152) and had one of its best blocking efforts of the season with 19.0 team blocks, including six solo stuffs.

NORTHRIDGE RANKED THIRD IN FINAL REGULAR SEASON AVCA TOP-15 POLL Following a two-match split at No. 2 BYU on Apr. 16-17, Cal State Northridge solidified its hold on third in the final regular season AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. The final poll of the 2010 season will be released May 10. Northridge, which received a season-high 237 points on Feb. 1, earned 210 points in the latest poll and have now been ranked third in consecutive weeks and seven times this season. Stanford remained number one for the sixth straight week earning 13 of 16 first-place votes. BYU remained second picking up two first-place votes followed by Northridge, Hawai'i and Pepperdine. USC is sixth followed by UCLA, UC Irvine in seventh, UC Santa Barbara is ninth and Ohio State moved into 10th. Long Beach State slips to 11th followed by Penn State, Ball State, UC San Diego and Loyola-Chicago 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.

QUARTET OF MATADORS NAMED TO ALL-MPSF SQUAD Led by first team selections Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak, Cal State Northridge had four players named to the 2010 All-MPSF Men's Volleyball team announced Thursday, Apr. 22 by the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. McKniff and Ratajczak both earned first team honors for the first time in their careers while senior Mike Gaudino and sophomore Matt Stork both earned honorable mention accolades. This season marked the first time in Northridge men's volleyball history that two Matadors have earned first team All-MPSF honors.

NORTHRIDGE IN THE MPSF TOURNAMENT The Matadors are making their ninth consecutive trip and 13th trip overall to the MPSF Tournament. With Saturday's semifinal win over USC, Northridge has earned its fourth trip to the conference semifinals since 2005. However, the semifinal round has marked the end of the Matadors' season each time. In 2005, Northridge lost at Pepperdine in four sets. BYU knocked the Matadors out in 2008 winning in three before Pepperdine eliminated Northridge last season in four sets at UC Irvine. Saturday's win over USC was the Matadors' fourth straight postseason win at home and Northridge improved to 6-8 in the postseason in Jeff Campbell's tenure as head coach.

MPSF TOURNAMENT DOWN TO FOUR The four-team field of Stanford, BYU, Northridge and Hawai'i will compete for the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. The NCAA Final Four will also take place at Stanford's Maples Pavilion on May 6-8. The host Cardinal earned the right to host the MPSF final four by winning the regular season and defeating UC Irvine in four sets on Saturday. BYU eliminated UCLA in four sets in Provo and Hawai'i held off Pepperdine in five thrilling sets in Honolulu in other quarterfinal matches on Saturday. Stanford, Northridge and Hawai'i all bring two-match win streaks into the semifinals. The Matadors have had success playing in Maples Pavilion, winning in five sets over Stanford on Jan. 29 and also winning in four in 2007. Northridge matches at Stanford from 2004-06 and in 2008 were played at Burnham Pavilion.

MCKNIFF, GAUDINO COME UP ACES Seniors Kevin McKniff and Mike Gaudino, typically two of Northridge's toughest servers, picked a good time to elevate their service game. McKniff, who leads the Matadors with 38 aces, had just two aces in Northridge's last six matches but exploded for four aces in the quarterfinal win over USC. It was the fourth time this season that McKniff has served four aces in a match, which is one off the career-best five aces he served at UC Santa Barbara on Mar. 10. Although Gaudino's ace total is down this season (43 in 2009, 17 in 2010), he fired three aces against the Trojans, matching his total from the last eight matches. McKniff and Gaudino currently rank third and fourth respectively in career aces at Cal State Northridge.

MATADORS AT FULL STRENGTH Seniors Theo Edwards and Ali'i Keohohou had been nursing injuries over the last week of the regular season but both were back in the starting lineup against USC on Saturday. Edwards had 11 kills in 26 swings to go with three blocks and two digs against the Trojans after sitting out the previous two matches at BYU. The BYU matches were the first matches Edwards has missed this season having started all 28 previous matches. Edwards had six career starts prior to his senior season but has responded with a team-high 352 kills in 866 attacks this season. Keohohou had started 59 consecutive matches at libero before being injured in the opening set against UCSB on Apr. 7. After missing the non-conference match against Penn State three days later, Keohohou was back on the court for the crucial two-match set at BYU and then had a team-high 13 digs against USC.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES With nine aces against USC on Saturday, the Matadors upped their team total to 151. Northridge also had nine aces against UC Irvine on Jan. 20 and served a season-high 12 aces against Cal Baptist on Jan. 7. Last year's Northridge team set the school record with 225 aces ... Freshman Drew Staker will wear jersey #9 for the rest of the season.

A CLOSER LOOK AT CSUN-BYU The Matadors and Cougars come in with identical 22-8 records. Northridge has won two of the three matches between the two teams this season, including a 3-1 win the final of the Santa Barbara Invitational on Jan. 8. The Matadors and Cougars met one other time on a neutral court with BYU winning 3-0 in the MPSF semifinals at Long Beach State in 2008. The Cougars are 6-4 in road matches this season and 4-1 on neutral site courts. Northridge is 9-5 on the road this season and 2-0 on neutral sites. Andrew Stewart comes in averaging 3.97 kpg to lead BYU which is hitting .318 as a team compared to .293 for the Matadors.

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