Matadors Look to Get Back on Track at No. 2 Stanford, Pacific This Weekend

Jan. 27, 2010

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MATCH EIGHT: #3 Northridge @ #2 Stanford • Friday, Jan. 29 • 7 p.m. • Maples Pavilion LIVE STATS: (Gametracker) MATCH NINE: #3 Northridge @ Pacific • Saturday, Jan. 30 • 7 p.m. • Spanos Center LIVE STATS: (Gametracker)

FOR STARTERS After seeing its season-opening, six-match win streak snapped by No. 10 UCLA last Saturday, third-ranked Cal State Northridge (6-1, 3-1 MPSF) heads to Northern California for two matches this week beginning Friday against No. 2 Stanford (3-1, 3-1 MPSF). The two-match trip concludes Saturday as the Matadors travel to Stockton to take on Pacific (4-4, 0-4 MPSF). Both matches begin at 7 p.m. Northridge opened last week with a four-set win over No. 4 UC Irvine but then saw its six-match win streak snapped in a straight set loss to 10th-ranked UCLA on Saturday. The Matadors are a perfect 4-0 in road matches this season.

SERIES HISTORY Friday's match between the Matadors and Stanford will be the 56th meeting all-time between the two schools. The Cardinal hold a 32-23 advantage in the series but Northridge has won five of the past six matches. The two teams split two matches last season with each team winning on their home floor. Friday's match against Pacific is the 28th meeting between the Matadors and Tigers with Northridge holding a 19-8 edge in the series. The Matadors have won five straight and eight of the last 10 against Pacific. Northridge has swept the last four meetings with the Tigers.

TO RECAP Theo Edwards and Tanner Nua each pounded a team-high 18 kills to lead Northridge to a 31-29, 27-30, 30-27 30-28 victory over No. 4 UC Irvine Wednesday night at The Matadome. Nua also added two aces and eight digs while Edwards had five digs and a pair of blocks. Senior Mike Gaudino added a season-high 15 kills (.242) to go with seven digs and four blocks (one solo). Senior Kevin McKniff also posted double figures with 10 kills (.444) and a pair of aces. On Friday, Northridge saw its six-match win streak come to a crashing halt as 10th-ranked UCLA came into The Matadome and dealt the Matadors a 30-21, 30-24, 30-21 setback. Northridge's offense was stymied all night long as the Matadors wound up hitting a season-low .052 (29-24-96). Meanwhile UCLA enjoyed a solid hitting night (.270, 42-18-89) and the Bruins served eight aces to Northridge's one. UCLA also out-blocked (14.0-8.0) and out-dug (35-27) the Matadors. Nua's nine kills (.160) was enough to lead Northridge which also got six kills (.200) from McKniff. Edwards and Gaudino combined for eight kills while committing 14 errors in 43 swings for a -.140 hitting clip. Libero Ali'i Keohohou did post a team-high 10 digs in the loss.

MATADORS SLIP TO THIRD IN AVCA COACHES POLL After two weeks at No. 2, Northridge slipped one spot to third in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. After earning a season-high 222 points along with five first-place votes last week, the Matadors 208 points this week. USC (6-1) earned 240 points and all 16 first-place votes to retain the top spot for the fourth consecutive week. Stanford (3-1) overtook Northridge for second this week and the two teams will meet Friday in Palo Alto. No. 4 BYU (5-2) and No. 5 Penn State (4-1) round out this week's top-five. UCLA (3-4), which jumped from 10th to sixth this week following wins over UCSB and Northridge, is followed by UC Irvine (4-4), Long Beach State (3-4), Hawai'i (4-3) and UC Santa Barbara (2-5). The final five spots in this week's poll go to Pepperdine (1-4), UC San Diego (2-5), Ohio State (4-4), Lewis (3-0) and Saint Francis (6-1). Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 for 137 consecutive weeks. The last time the Matadors did not rank among the top-15 was the first poll (Jan. 15) of the 2002 season.

HOT AND COLD FOR MCKNIFF-RATAJCZAK IN THE MIDDLE The Northridge middle attackers, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak have each had banner seasons to this point. Both rank among the top hitters on the team as well as the MPSF. McKniff continues to pace the Matadors with a .504 hitting clip and his fifth kill against UCLA on Saturday went over 700 kills in his Northridge career. Ratajczak meanwhile is hitting .463 which is second behind McKniff and fourth in the MPSF. While all Matador hitters struggled against UCLA on Saturday, Ratajczak hit a team-high .273 which is a season-low for him. After hitting .570 over the first five matches this season, the senior is hitting .276 over his last two matches. McKniff, who came into the UCLA match hitting .540, struggled to a season-low hitting clip of .200 against the Bruins.

CAREER RECORDS WATCH Several Matadors are inching their way up the career rankings this season. On his current pace, senior Jacek Ratajczak will finish his career as the all-time leader in hitting percentage (.463) with fellow senior Kevin McKniff (.441) not far behind in third. Senior Mike Gaudino has vaulted to fourth in career aces (102) while senior Ali'i Keohohou has moved up to fifth in career digs (687) and is second in digs per game (2.34). Matt Stork is now eighth in assists (1,923) while McKniff is seventh in career block assists (286) and eighth in total blocks (309).

STARTING LINEUP STAYS INTACT Head coach Jeff Campbell has not made a single deviation in the Matador starting lineup after seven matches. The seven starters continue to be senior-laden with Theo Edwards, Mike Gaudino, Kevin McKniff, Jacek Ratajczak and Ali'i Keohohou, along with junior Tanner Nua and sophomore Matt Stork. Stork has now started all 38 matches since the beginning of his freshman season in 2009. Nua has started 50 of 51 matches as he begins his junior season while McKniff and Gaudino have 88 and 73 starts respectively. Keohohou has started 71 matches at libero and Ratajczak has 39 career starts. With Eric Vance in the starting lineup last season (along with McKniff, Ratajczak, Gaudino, Keohohou, Stork and Nua), the Matadors used the same starting lineup in all but one of their 31 matches.

NEW FACES SEE COURT TIME True freshman Drew Staker has worked his way into the rotation in his first season at Northridge. The 6-8 outside has been inserted into the lineup in each of the last six matches as a blocker. Sophomore transfer Jim Wielebnicki has appeared in five matches, including each of the last three as a defensive replacement. Redshirt freshmen Ashton Hippenstiel appeared against Cal Baptist earlier this season and John Baker made his second appearance of the season against UCLA picking up his first career dig as well as a block assist. True freshman Dillon Auxier made his Matador debut against the Bruins and picked up a pair of block assists in the latter stages of the match.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES For the second consecutive season, the Matadors had a chance to win seven consecutive matches to open the season. Last season Hawai'i spoiled those plans and Saturday it was UCLA's turn to put an end to the season-opening six-match win streak ... senior Mike Gaudino's 15 kills against No. 4 UC Irvine is a season-high ... Matt Stork dished out a season-high 62 assists against the Anteaters ... After posting one double figure dig match in the first four matches of the season, Ali'i Keohohou has reached double figures in digs in each of the last three matches ... After out-hitting their first five opponents this season, the Matadors have been out-hit in each of the last two matches ... The UCLA match was the first time Northridge has been swept this season ... After serving nine aces against UCI, the Matadors had a single service ace vs. UCLA.

SCOUTING STANFORD (3-1, 3-1): The second-ranked Cardinal host No. 10 UCSB on Thursday before entertaining the Matadors on Friday. Stanford has won three of its first four matches including a two-match split at No. 5 BYU last week. The Cardinal is unbeaten at home after sweeping both matches from No. 8 Hawai'i two weeks ago. Sophomore OH Brad Lawson leads the Cardinal averaging 4.64 kpg which ranks fourth in the MPSF. Senior OPP Evan Romero adds 4.36 kpg while Stanford is hitting .347 as a team. Northridge is 8-15 all-time in matches at Stanford's Burnham Pavilion and Maples Pavilion.

SCOUTING PACIFIC (4-4, 0-4): The Tigers host UC Santa Barbara on Friday before hosting Northridge on Saturday. Pacific has dropped four straight matches after opening the season with four straight wins. The Tigers fell to 0-4 in the MPSF after dropping a pair of matches to No. 9 Hawai'i at home last weekend. Sophomore OH Florian Gornik leads Pacific averaging 3.56 kpg while freshman OH Taylor Hughes adds 3.50 kpg. Patrick Tunnell and Kevin Downing have shared the setting duties with Tunnell averaging 10.67 apg and Downing 6.00. The Tigers are hitting .249 as a team. The Matadors are 7-6 all-time at the Spanos Center.


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