April 29, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - 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 Thursday evening at Maples Pavilion. Senior Theo Edwards paced the Matadors with 16 kills in the win.
Northridge last played in the MPSF Championship match in 1993 when the Matadors topped Long Beach State to win its one and only tournament crown. Since the MPSF re-aligned to its current format in 2002, Northridge had never advanced past the semifinals of the conference tournament.
On Thursday, 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.
"It was a back-and-forth match and it's unfortunate that one team had to lose," said Northridge head coach Jeff Campbell. "BYU is a well-coached team with great players, we were just special tonight, it was a great match."
In set one, the Matadors claimed their first lead at 3-2 following a John Baker kill. Northridge extended the lead to two at 5-3 and 6-4 following a Robb Stowell hitting error. Northridge also led 8-7 before BYU battled back behind a 4-0 run to take its biggest lead at 10-8 forcing a Matador timeout. BYU continued to hold the lead until back-to-back solo blocks from Gaudino and McKniff pulled Northridge even at 15-15. But a Stork service error followed by an Edwards attack into the net and an Andrew Stewart kill of a Matador overpass forced Northridge into its second timeout at 18-15.
BYU's lead was at least two points until back-to-back Cougar points put BYU in front 26-22. A Baker kill pulled Northridge within 26-23 before two straight BYU points gave the Cougars their largest lead of the set 28-23. The Matadors answered with a two-point run capped by an Edwards kill forcing BYU into a timeout. A Baker service error out of the timeout and a Futi Tavana kill gave the Cougars the opening set 30-26.
BYU opened set two scoring four of the first six points capped by a Stewart kill. A pair of Cougar miscues and an Edwards kill put Northridge in front for the first time at 5-4. The Matadors led 7-5 before BYU scored three unanswered to retake the lead 8-7. But Northridge then found a rhythm engineering a 4-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back Edwards kills, to open up an 11-8 lead. Following a Cougar timeout, the Matadors scored four if the next five points to take their largest lead of the set 15-9 and BYU took its second timeout of the frame.
With Northridge leading 19-11 following a Gaudino kill, the Cougars tallied three consecutive to pull within 19-14 forcing the Matadors into a timeout. A McKniff kill ended the run but BYU continued to hang around closing to 22-20 after taking four consecutive points. Back-to-back Ratajczak kills boosted the Northridge lead back to four at 24-20 and propelled the Matadors on a 6-5 run to close the set 30-25. After hitting -.111 with two kills in the first set, Edwards had six kills in the second frame.
Northridge led virtually the entire third set before BYU came back to steal the set in the latter stages. A Ratajczak kill of a BYU overpass capped a 4-0 Matador run giving Northridge its largest lead of the third set at 11-6. After Stork won a joust at the net, the Matadors extended the lead to 13-7 forcing the Cougars to call timeout.
Leading 17-11, BYU outscored Northridge 11-5 over the next 16 points to pull even at 22-22. Edwards's attack went long giving the Cougars their first lead at 26-25 and went up by two on a Stowell solo block. The Matadors overcame a 28-26 deficit on an Edwards kill and a Stowell hitting error but a Stewart kill followed by a Gaudino attack that went just outside the sideline completed the comeback.
Northridge dominated the fourth set committing just two errors and hitting .560 as a team. The Matadors bolted out to a 13-5 behind back-to-back Baker kills. A Stork ace extended the lead to 23-9 and Northridge held off a late BYU run to win the set 30-16 on a Ratajczak's 14th kill of the match.
The Matadors opened the fifth set winning two of the first three points on a pair of Baker kills. But a Baker service error followed by a Stowell kill put the Cougars back in front 3-2. After four sideouts, BYU built its lead to 7-4 behind a 3-0 run forcing a Northridge timeout. The Matadors claimed five of the next seven points out of the timeout to force the Cougars to use a timeout of their own. After Stowell hit out tying the score at nine, he went long again giving the Matadors a 10-9 lead.
Stowell answered on his next attempt tying the score at 10 before a pair of BYU hitting errors gave Northridge the two-point edge at 12-10. But back came the Cougars behind kills from Stewart and Ken Tuttle and the score was tied for the final time 12-12. Ratajczak's kill following a Matador timeout propelled Northridge on a match-clinching three-point run as Futi Tavana's hitting error on match point sent Northridge to the championship match against Stanford, a 3-0 winner over Hawai'i in the other semifinal match.
The Matadors virtually assured themselves of at least an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with Thursday's semifinal win. Northridge has defeated top-seeded Stanford twice already this season.
Saturday's title match is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Stanford's Maples Pavilion.
- GO MATADORS -