February 6, 2009

Fourth-Ranked Northridge Wins Tight Three-Set Match Over No. 7 Long Beach State

Feb. 6, 2009

Final Stats

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Junior middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak had 10 kills and a match-high seven blocks while senior Eric Vance added 14 kills as fourth-ranked Cal State Northridge claimed a tight three-set sweep over No. 7 Long Beach State, 30-24, 32-30, 33-31 Friday in The Matadome.

With the win, the Matadors snap a mini two-match skid and improve to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the MPSF. The loss drops the 49ers to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play.

Ratajczak, who hit a match-high .600 with just one error in 15 swings, also had one ace and one dig in addition to seven blocks (one solo). Vance cooled off a bit from Northridge's two matches in Hawai'i as the senior put down a match-high 14 kills but committed eight errors to hit .167. Sophomore Tanner Nua was the third Matador hitter to reach double figures as he knocked down 10 kills (.261) to go with a match-high three aces. Junior Mike Gaudino also served up a pair of aces to go with nine digs. Matador setter Matt Stork posted 43 assists, three digs and a career-high four blocks and libero Ali'i Keohohou surpassed 400 career digs after digging 10 balls in the win.

The two teams traded the lead for the early part of the first set before a Stork ace gave Northridge a two-point cushion at 7-5. The Matadors then won four of the next six points to open up an 11-7 lead after Mike Klipsch was called for a back-row hitting error. An ensuing 3-0 Beach run closed the gap to 11-10 capped by a Dean Bittner ace but a Bittner service error followed by a Vance kill opened up a 13-10 Matador lead. Long Beach would pull within 17-14 following a Bittner kill but would get no closer as a 5-2 run gave Northridge its biggest lead of the set at 22-16. The 49ers battled back to within 26-23 forcing a Matador timeout but a Dan Alexander service error followed by a Nua kill and Ratajczak's only ace of the match sealed Northridge's 30-24 win.

The Matadors led from start to finish in set two but the frame wasn't settled until the latter stages. After Northridge jumped out to a 13-6 lead following a Nua kill, the 49ers won eight of the next 10 points to close to within 16-14 forcing a Matador timeout. The Northridge lead was also two at 18-16 before a 4-0 Northridge run, highlighted by a pair of Vance kills, put the Matadors up 22-16. But Long Beach would not go away as the 49ers engineered a 6-1 run to close the gap to 23-22 after a Stork error. A Tommy Pestolesi kill evened the set for the first time at 27-27 but the Matadors answered each time. With the score knotted 30-30, Nua put down a kill that the 49ers heatledly contested resulting in a yellow card issued to Klipsch which gave the Matadors another point and the 32-30 decision.

The third set was the tightest of the match as the frame featured 30 ties and 15 lead changes. A Nua kill put Northridge up 22-21 but a Josh Riley kill, a Nua hitting error and a Jim Baughman-Bittner block on Gaudino gave the Beach their largest lead of the set at 24-22. However three consecutive Matador points put Northridge back on top 25-24 and the teams traded sideouts until 31-31 when a Vance kill and an Alexander hitting error gave Northridge the set 33-31 and the match 3-0.

Bittner matched Vance for match-high honors with 14 kills (.286) to lead Long Beach State. Riley added 11 kills (.200) while libero Dustin Watten had 11 digs.

Cal State Northridge continues its five-match homestand on Saturday as the Matadors host No. 15 UC San Diego at 7 p.m.

- GO MATADORS -

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