Matadors Open NCAA Tournament Against Penn State in Semifinals

May 3, 2010

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FOR STARTERS After 17 years, Cal State Northridge (23-9) is back in the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship Tournament. The Matadors, who finished as the runner-up to Stanford in the MPSF Tournament last weekend, earned the at-large berth in the four-team national championship tournament. Northridge, seeded second, will meet third-seed Penn State (23-7) in the semifinals on Thursday at 6 p.m., at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. The top-seed Stanford (22-6) will take on fourth-seed Ohio State (22-7) in the second semifinal at 8 p.m. The two semifinal winners will meet for the National Championship Saturday at 4 p.m.

NCAA FINAL FOUR ON ESPN FAMILY OF NETWORKS The Matadors semifinal match on Thursday will be televised nationally on ESPN2, ESPNU and Justin Kutcher will handle play-by-play duties and Karch Kiraly will provide analysis.

SERIES HISTORY Thursday's match is the 10th meeting all-time between the Matadors and Penn State. Northridge trails 5-4 in the series. The Matadors defeated the Nittany Lions 30-27, 30-24, 30-25 on Apr. 10 in Northridge, the first time the two schools had met since the 1998 season. Prior to this season, the last Northridge win came during the 1993 season when the Matadors defeated Penn State in the NCAA Semifinals in straight sets (15-2, 15-5, 15-11). Northridge is 1-4 all-time against Penn State on neutral courts with the lone win taking place at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.

TO RECAP Cal State Northridge advanced to its first MPSF Championship match in 17 years as the Matadors topped second-seeded BYU 26-30, 30-25, 28-30, 30-16, 15-12 last Thursday evening at Maples Pavilion. Senior Theo Edwards paced the Matadors with 16 kills in the win. Edwards knocked down a team-high 16 kills for the Matadors (23-8), 14 coming over the final four sets. Kevin McKniff (.462), Jacek Ratajczak (.379) and John Baker (.250) each added 15 kills in the win. Northridge overcame a slow start to hit .274 (70-25-164) as a team as Matt Stork dished out 61 assists to go with seven digs, two aces and three blocks. Edwards completed his third double-double of the season by adding 13 digs which matched Ali'i Keohohou for team-high honors. On Saturday the Matadors were looking for their first MPSF Championship in 17 years but Ratajczak's team-high 15 kills weren't enough as Northridge hit .219 (46-23-105) as a team and was swept by Stanford 30-24, 30-28, 30-17. Stanford, the best hitting team in the nation, wound up hitting .392 (56-16-102) behind 19 kills from Evan Romero and 15 from Brad Lawson. Ratajczak hit a solid .500 with 15 kills in 26 swings with just two errors. He also had a pair of blocks, including one solo. McKniff added eight kills but hit just .235 to go with one of Northridge's two aces. Tanner Nua came off the bench to put down seven kills (.385) as Baker (.056) and Edwards (.000) each chipped in six kills, with Baker also contributing three digs and the other Matador ace. In addition to being out-hit .392-.219, the Matadors were out-aced 6-2 and out-blocked 13.5-5.0.

NORTHRIDGE IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT The Matadors are making their second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament following a runner-up finish in 1993. That season, Northridge swept Long Beach State in the MPSF Championship Tournament final and was awarded the at-large nomination to the NCAA Tournament. The Matadors defeated Penn State in the semifinals before falling to UCLA in the national championship match 15-5, 15-11, 15-10. Northridge brings a 3-1 record against this year's NCAA tournament field into Thursday's semifinal match. The Matadors are 2-1 against Stanford, 1-0 against Penn State and did not play Ohio State. A team from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation has won 14 of the last 16 NCAA Championships with Penn State being the exception, winning the national championship in 2008 and 1994.

A CLOSER LOOK AT CSUN-PENN STATE The Matadors and Nittany Lions will meet for the second time this season and 10th time overall. Northridge out-hit Penn State .336-.193 in the first meeting this season and also out-blocked the Nittany Lions 14.5-8.5. Senior Theo Edwards had a team-high 12 kills (.385) to lead the Matadors while Kevin McKniff added 10 kills while hitting .714. Will Price led Penn State with a match-high .19 kills on .268 hitting. Northridge is 12-6 in road matches this season, including a perfect 3-0 record in neutral site matches. Penn State is 12-6 on the road this season, including a1-2 record in neutral site matches.

NORTHRIDGE NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES With six digs in the MPSF Tournament final against Stanford, senior libero Ali'i Keohohou became the all-time digs leader in Matador history. With 919 career scoops, Keohohou passed Doug English (2001-04) who had 913 career digs. Keohohou, a senior from Newbury Park, Calif., is also averaging a Northridge career-best 2.41 digs per game in his four seasons ... Theo Edwards posted his third double-double of the season with 16 kills and a career-high 13 digs in the MPSF semifinal win over BYU. Edwards also had double-doubles this season against UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 7) and Stanford (Apr. 2) ... The Matador senior class (Edwards, Keohohou, Mike Gaudino, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak) has amassed a record of 88-38 (.698) since 2007. The quintet has helped Northridge to an average of 22 wins per season over four years ... In addition to their first-ever national championship, the Matadors are seeking their highest final national ranking since 1991 when Northridge finished third in the AVCA final rankings. The Matadors finished fourth in the final rankings last season, the highest in Jeff Campbell's 12 seasons on the bench ... One win in the NCAA Tournament would give Northridge 24 wins this season, tying the 2009 squad for most wins in school history ... McKniff and Ratajczak were named to the MPSF All-Tournament team.

MCKNIFF, RATAJCZAK EARN FIRST TEAM AVCA ALL-AMERICAN HONORS The senior middle blocking duo of Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak were both named to the first team as the 2010 AVCA Division I-II Men's Volleyball All-America Team was announced by the American Volleyball Coaches Association on Thursday, Apr. 29. McKniff and Ratajczak join Eric Vance (2008, 2009), Coley Kyman (1991, 1993), Doug English (2003), Joe Nargi (2003), Chad Strickland (1997) and Neil Coffman (1991) on the list of Cal State Northridge's AVCA First Team All-Americans. The Matadors also had two players named to the AVCA first team for the first time since Coffman and Kyman in 1991.

"Kevin and Jack both have had fantastic years," said head coach Jeff Campbell. "Some of the closest matches we've played in, and won, were because of the way Jack and Kevin played. What's impressive about these two guys is that everybody in the gym knows that they're getting the ball yet they still attack the ball at very high percentage."

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 as 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 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 was sixth followed by UCLA, UC Irvine tied for 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 rounded out the 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.