Matadors Earn Third Seed in MPSF Tournament with Five-Set Win at BYU

April 17, 2010

Final Stats

PROVO, Utah - Senior Jacek Ratajczak led four Cal State Northridge hitters in double figures with 17 kills as third-ranked Cal State Northridge upset second-ranked BYU in five thrilling sets (28-30, 31-29, 30-27, 28-30, 15-10) Saturday at Smith Fieldhouse.

With the win, the Matadors (21-8, 15-7 MPSF) earn the third seed in the MPSF Tournament and will host sixth-seeded USC on Saturday, Apr. 24. Northridge and BYU (21-8, 15-7) share second place in the final MPSF standings but the Cougars claim the tiebreaker.

Ratajcak 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.

After being out-blocked 17.5 to 6.5 on Friday, the Matadors cut the blocking deficit to 15.0 to 11.5 on Saturday.

"We really played hard tonight," said Matador head coach Jeff Campbell. "It was a gritty effort by our guys.

"It was a great atmosphere and a huge crowd, it was just a great win for us. If I had to give a game ball tonight it would go to Jim Wielebnicki for his huge points in the fifth set."

The match did not start well for the Matadors who won for just the third time in 10 matches this season when dropping the opening set. After trailing for a good portion of the set, Andrew Stewart's hitting error pulled the Matadors even at 16-16. But three straight BYU point boosted the Cougars lead back to 19-16. After trailing by as many as five (25-20), Northridge rallied behind Ratajczak and McKniff to tie again at 26. The Matadors also tied the frame at 27 and 28 before a Kent Tuttle kill and a John Baker hitting error gave BYU the set 30-28.

In the second set, Northridge took advantage of nine BYU service errors to get back into the match. Trailing 16-13, a pair of Nua kills along with a Ratajczak kill pulled the Matadors even at 16-16. The Cougars however would not surrender the lead until Robb Stowell's hitting error gave Northridge its first lead at 19-18. BYU would knot the set at 19-19 and again in the final stages (29-29) before the Matadors cashed in on a Gaudino kill and a Nua-McKniff block.

Northridge carried the momentum into the third set as the Matadors took early leads of 5-2 and 6-3. But the Cougars battled back to take a 9-8 lad after Nua's attack sailed wide. The two teams then traded sideouts until 15-15 when a Kevin Sagers hitting error gave the Matadors a 16-15 lead and propelled them on a 3-1 run to take an 18-16 lead. BYU managed to knot the set at 20 but that was as close as the Cougars would get as Northridge took a 2-1 lead with the 30-27 win.

Set four was tight from the start as neither team led by more than one over the first 18 points. BYU broke open the middle of the set, taking leads of 13-9 and 18-14 before a Gaudino kill, a Ratajczak ace and a McKniff-Matt Stork block pulled the Matadors even at 19. But the Cougars would not give in and despite the set being tied three more times, the last at 27-27, BYU forced a fifth set with the 30-28 victory.

Northridge jumped out to leads of 5-1 and 7-2 in the fifth set and never looked back. After the Cougars closed to within 9-8 on a Reed Chilton kill and 10-9 on a Stowell kill, the Matadors got a kill and an ace from Wielebnicki and never relinquished the lead. Another McKniff-Stork block on match point gave the Matadors the 15-10 win and secured a quarterfinal match in The Matadome where Northridge is 10-2 this season.

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