Third-Ranked Matadors Host No. 8 Hawai'i For Two Matches This Week

March 2, 2010

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Match #18

No. 8 Hawai'i (10-5, 6-4) at No. 3 Northridge (12-5, 9-5)

Friday, March 5, 2010 - 7:00 p.m. The Matadome (1,600) - Northridge, Calif.

Live Stats: (Gametracker)

Match #19

No. 8 Hawai'i (10-5, 6-4) at No. 3 Northridge (12-5, 9-5)

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 2:00 p.m. The Matadome (1,600) - Northridge, Calif.

Live Stats: (Gametracker)

FOR STARTERS Third-ranked Cal State Northridge (12-5, 9-5 MPSF) returns from its season-long, five-match road trip to host No. 8 Hawai'i (10-5, 6-4 MPSF) for a pair of matches this weekend. The two-match series opens with a 7 p.m. match on Friday (Mar. 5) and concludes Saturday afternoon (Mar. 6) with a rare 2 p.m. first serve. The Matadors finished 2-3 on the recent five-match trip, defeating UC San Diego and USC and falling to UC Irvine, UCLA and Pepperdine. The Hawai'i series opens up a stretch where Northridge will play seven of its final 12 regular season matches at home.

SERIES HISTORY This weekend's matches between the Matadors and Hawai'i will be the 58th and 59th meetings all-time between the two schools. The Warriors hold a 44-13 advantage in the series and the two teams have split the last four meetings with each team winning a pair at home. No. 12 Hawai'i upset the second-ranked Matadors twice in the Stan Sheriff Center last season but Northridge won two at home in 2008. Northridge has won six of the 22 matches against the Warriors in The Matadome dating back to 1979.

TO RECAP Redshirt freshman John Baker had the best match of his young career as he pounded a career-high 15 kills to lead fifth-ranked Cal State Northridge past No. 6 USC 30-25, 24-30, 30-22, 30-21 Wednesday night at the Galen Center. Baker, who has appeared in 10 matches this season off the bench, earned his first career start in place of Tanner Nua and overcame a slow start to knock down 15 kills in 25 swings with three errors for a .480 clip. In addition to one ace and three blocks, he also had a career-high 12 digs for his first collegiate double-double. Three other Northridge hitters reached double figures as senior Theo Edwards had 13 kills (.074) and eight digs while Kevin McKniff (.429) and Jacek Ratajczak (.391) each added 12 kills. Ratajczak also had a team-high six blocks while Ali'i Keohohou had a season-high 19 digs. On Friday, Baker had a career-high 19 kills but the fifth-ranked Matadors came up short at top-ranked Pepperdine 39-37, 30-27, 26-30, 30-28 Friday at Firestone Fieldhouse. Northridge hit a solid .345, also got 17 kills and 10 blocks from Jacek Ratajczak and 18 kills from Kevin McKniff.

MATADORS GAIN GROUND MOVING UP TO THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15  Last week's split at No. 6 USC and No. 1 Pepperdine jumped Cal State Northridge from fifth to third in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. After three straight weeks at number one, Northridge earned 186 total points last week to slip to fifth. But a four-set win at No. 6 USC followed by a hard-fought four-set loss at top-ranked Pepperdine gave the Matadors 200 points this week good for a No. 3 national ranking. Northridge was ranked third one other time this season (Jan. 25). Pepperdine (9-4) retained the top spot for the second straight week after earning 15 of 16 first-place votes and 235 total points. Stanford (10-4) earned 221 points to remain second this week followed by the Matadors, BYU (9-5) and UCLA (9-8). Long Beach State (8-6), which picked up the remaining first-place vote, jumped from ninth to sixth this week followed by USC (8-6), Hawai'i (9-5), Penn State (11-2) and UC Santa Barbara (9-8). The final five spots in this week's poll go to Loyola-Chicago (10-0), UC Irvine (9-9), Ohio State (10-6), UC San Diego (5-12) and Lewis (10-3). Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 for 142 consecutive weeks. The last time the Matadors did not rank among the nation's top-15 was the first poll (Jan. 15) of the 2002 season. By earning three number one rankings this season, Northridge has spent a total of six weeks as the number one team in its history.

BAKER EMERGES ON THE RIGHT SIDE Redshirt freshman John Baker made the most of his first starting assignments of the season. After coming off the bench in the first nine appearances of his debut season, Baker earned the start at opposite hitter against USC in place of Tanner Nua who had started all 15 previous matches. The redshirt freshman from Racine, Wis. responded with a team-high 15 kills in 25 swings (.480) as Northridge won in four sets. He also added 12 digs for his first collegiate double-double. Baker then pounded a career-best 19 kills (.311) in 45 swings to go with one ace, three digs and five blocks at Pepperdine. In his first two starts as a Matador, he averaged 4.25 kills per game while hitting .371 with 34 kills and eight errors in 70 swings.

MPSF RACE BEGINS TO HEAT UP Pepperdine's eight-match win streak has vaulted the Waves to the top of the MPSF standings at roughly the mid-point of the conference season. Two teams (Northridge, UCLA) have played 14 MPSF matches and have eight remaining while Pepperdine (8-3), which has played 11 conference matches, has a half-game lead over Stanford (8-4) and the Matadors (9-5) and a full game lead over BYU (7-4). Long Beach State (6-4) and UCLA (8-6) each trail by 1.5 games while Hawai'i (5-4), USC (6-5) and UC Santa Barbara (6-5) are all two games behind.

CAREER RECORDS WATCH With four aces against Pepperdine last Friday, senior Kevin McKniff became the second Matador to eclipse the 100 career aces plateau this season. Fellow senior Mike Gaudino also surpassed the milestone with his second ace against USC on Feb. 3. Gaudino currently ranks fourth in CSUN history with 106 aces followed by McKniff with 101. Gaudino also currently ranks eighth in career digs with 647. McKniff currently ranks second in career hitting percentage at .447 and is fourth in block assists (321) and total blocks (347). Seniors Ali'i Keohohou and Jacek Ratajczak also figure into the career top-10. Keohohou reached 800 career digs last week and is now fourth all-time in digs and owns the top digs per game average of 2.40. Ratajczak owns the top career hitting percentage at .456 and in just under two seasons, Matt Stork has moved into sixth all-time in assists with 2,443.

EDWARDS LOOKS TO FINISH STRONG Senior outside hitter Theo Edwards has already played more games this season than he has in any other. After playing sparingly due to injuries over his first two seasons, Edwards played in a career-high 21 matches and 52 games in 2009. So far this season, the senior from Northridge, has started all 15 matches and appeared in all 57 games. He currently leads the team in kills (255), kills per game (3.92) and total attacks (610) far surpassing his previous career totals. Edwards was hitting a season-high .288 following a 3-0 win over Long Beach State on Jan. 15 but has since seen his season percentage dip to .243 following last week's combined .123 hitting clip in matches at USC and Pepperdine. Edwards has hit at least .300 in seven matches this season including a season-high .487 at No. 2 Stanford on Jan. 29.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES Mike Gaudino has struggled on offense of late as evidenced by hitting .058 (23-18-86) over his last four matches but has picked up his defense. The senior from La Cañada, Calif., has posted double figures in digs three time in the last four matches and has led Northridge in blocks in two of the last four matches. Gaudino currently ranks third in the team in total blocks with 60 and has a team-high nine solo stuffs ... Ratajczak's 10 total blocks against Pepperdine is a career-high ... The Matadors finished 2-3 on their season-long, five-match road trip ... The loss at Pepperdine was Northridge's first this season when they out-block their opponents ... The .345 team hitting percentage was also a season-high for the Matadors in a losing effort.

SCOUTING HAWAI'I (10-5, 6-4 MPSF) The eighth-ranked Warriors come to Northridge for a pair of matches following a pair of home wins over BYU last weekend. Monday's win over BYU wrapped up a five-week homestand for Hawai'i which finished 6-2 on the homestand. The Warriors, 2-2 on the road this season, are led by freshman OH Jonas Umlauft who leads Hawai'i and is fifth in the MPSF in kills per game (4.68) and points (5.39). Junior OH Joshua Walker adds 4.38 kpg and 1.61 dpg while setter Nejc Zemijak averages 12.51 assists for the Warriors who are hitting .297 as a team.


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