March 5, 2009

Top-Ranked Matadors Stifle BYU Offense in 30-24, 30-28, 30-25 Win

March 5, 2009

Final Stats

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior All-American Eric Vance knocked down a match-high 15 kills as Cal State Northridge won its first match as the No. 1 team in the country sweeping eighth-ranked BYU, 30-24, 30-28, 30-25 Thursday in The Matadome.

The win is the Matadors' eighth straight, a season-high as Northridge improves to 14-2 overall and 10-2 in the MPSF. The win also snaps the Matadors' five-match losing streak to the Cougars who slip to 9-7 overall and 7-4 in conference.

Vance's 15 kills were a match-high on a night when neither team was particularly sharp. The senior hit .448 in 29 swings to go with a pair of aces and seven digs. Junior middle Jacek Ratajczak also hit well as posted seven kills with just one error to hit .500. Ratajczak also added four blocks (all assisted) and one ace. Sophomore Tanner Nua chipped in eight kills but struggled to an .045 hitting clip while Kevin McKniff added seven kills (.286) and team-high's of five blocks (two solo) and three aces. Libero Ali'i Keohohou had a match-high nine digs and setter Matt Stork registered 35 assists.

The Matadors out-hit the Cougars .280 (45-17-100) to .089 (33-25-90). Northridge posted 10.5 total team blocks but several of BYU's hitting errors were unforced.

The first set went in Northridge's favor after the Matadors blew open a tight 7-7 game with an 8-0 run. A pair of McKniff aces highlighted the run but Northridge also took advantage of four Cougar hitting errors. BYU pulled within six at 17-11 but would get no closer until Mike Gaudino's attack was blocked by a trio of Cougars at 29-24. But Gaudino converted his next chance at set point and the Matadors took set one 30-24.

Northridge found it tough to build on the momentum of the first set as BYU jumped out to an early 7-4 lead following an Andrew Stewart kill. The Cougar lead grew to as many as five (13-8) following another Stewart kill before the Matadors began to chip away at the lead. A McKniff kill and a McKniff ace capped a 7-2 run as Northridge tied the game at 15-15. But the Cougars did not break as they engineered a 4-1 run to open up a 20-16 lead after a Stewart kill. A Mat Taylor kill gave BYU a 24-19 lead and the Cougars looked to have the second set in hand. Northridge pulled within one on four occasions, the last at 27-26 before a Stewart's attack went long and the frame was tied at 27-27. Gaudino's service error gave the Cougars back the lead at 28-27 before a Ratajczak kill followed by a pair of BYU hitting errors gave the Matadors set two 30-28.

With the score tied 11-11 in the third set, the Matadors again used a 6-0 run to open up a comfortable 17-11 cushion. Northridge maintained at least a five-point lead until a Futi Tavana kill pulled BYU within three at 24-21. But a Gaudino kill followed by a Nua-Ratajczak block boosted the Matador lead back to five at 26-21. Three straight Cougar points put some drama back in the set as BYU pulled within 26-24 but a Vance kill followed by an Alex Da Pron hitting error put the Matadors on top 28-24 and a Nua ace on set point wrapped up the match.

Taylor led BYU with 11 kills while hitting .391 while Stewart added eight kills but hit just .095. Stewart also contributed a match-high nine digs in the loss.

The two teams wrap up the two-match series on Friday at The Matadome. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.

- GO MATADORS -

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