Third-Ranked Matadors Head to the Midwest For Two Matches at Ball State

March 23, 2010

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Match #22

No. 3 Northridge (15-6, 11-6 MPSF) at Ball State (12-7, 4-4 MIVA)

Friday, March 26, 2010 - 7:30 p.m. EDT Worthen Arena (11,500) - Muncie, Ind.

Live Stats:

Match #23

No. 3 Northridge (15-6, 11-6 MPSF) at Ball State (12-7, 4-4 MIVA)

Saturday, March 27, 2010 - 7:30 p.m. EDT Worthen Arena (11,500) - Muncie, Ind.

Live Stats:

FOR STARTERS Following a 13-day break from match action, third-ranked Cal State Northridge (15-6, 11-6 MPSF) returns to the court this week as the Matadors head to Muncie, Ind. for a pair of matches at Ball State (12-7, 4-4 MIVA). Northridge, which hasn't played since sweeping No. 12 Loyola-Chicago on Mar. 13, is 9-3 on the road this season but has lost two of its last four road matches. Following the two-match set this weekend, the Matadors will return home to open up a four-match homestand against top-ranked Stanford on Apr. 2.

SERIES HISTORY The two matches this week between the Matadors and Ball State will be the 17th and 18th meetings all-time between the two schools. Northridge holds an 11-5 advantage in the series and the teams have split the last four matches. The Matadors and Cardinals last met during the 2000 season when Ball State won the opener (3-1) before Northridge took the finale (3-0) of a two-match set in Muncie, Ind. The Matadors also played in Muncie during the 1988, 1989 and 1991 seasons winning two of the three matches.

TO RECAP Freshman John Baker had a team-high 13 kills and senior Kevin McKniff served a career-high five aces leading third-ranked Cal State Northridge to a 30-26, 31-29, 30-25 win over 10th-ranked UC Santa Barbara Wednesday (Mar. 10). As a team, Northridge hit .287 (42-15-94) while Baker's 13 kills was a team-high. The freshman also had one of the Matadors' seven aces but committed eight of the teams' 15 hitting errors in the match. McKniff, who knocked down eight kills while hitting .500, had a career-best five aces and just two service errors. Senior Mike Gaudino chipped in eight kills in 16 attempts with no errors while Theo Edwards and Jacek Ratajczak each added six kills apiece. Kevin McKniff and Ratajczak then combined for 25 kills as third-ranked Cal State Northridge swept the 12th-ranked Loyola Ramblers 30-22, 30-27, 30-22 the following Saturday (Mar. 13). The Matadors (15-6) got a huge night from their middle blockers as the McKniff-Ratajczak duo combined to hit .767 with 25 kills and just two errors in 30 attempts. Ratajczak shared match-high honors with Baker as each put down 13 kills. Ratajczak hit .706 with just one error in 17 swings to go with five blocks and an ace. McKniff came through with 12 kills in 13 swings, also committing just one error, to hit an impressive .846. Baker's 13 kill came on .300 hitting and the redshirt freshman added five digs and four blocks (one solo). Setter Matt Stork had two of Northridge's five aces and his 40 assists led to the Matadors hitting .354 as a team. Libero Ali'i Keohohou reached double figures in digs for the 11th time this season as the senior dug 10 balls.

MATADORS REMAIN THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15 FOLLOWING OFF WEEK Despite being idle from match action, Cal State Northridge remained third in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. Northridge, which received a season-high 237 points on Feb. 1, earned 206 points this week and are ranked third for the fourth consecutive week. Stanford (13-4), which became the fourth team this season to hold down the top spot last week, remained number one as the Cardinal earned 15 of 16 first-place votes. Pepperdine (12-5) remained second earning the other first-place vote. The Matadors remained third followed by BYU (14-7) and Hawai'i (14-7). Penn State (16-4) is sixth this week followed by USC (10-9), UCLA (12-9), Long Beach State (11-10) and UC Santa Barbara (10-11). The final five spots in this week's poll are held down by UC Irvine (11-11), Loyola-Chicago (13-3), Ohio State (13-7), UC San Diego (7-14) and Lewis (13-6). Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 for 145 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.

MCKNIFF NABS THIRD MPSF PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD Senior middle blocker Kevin McKniff was named MPSF Player of the Week for the third time this season after leading the third-ranked Matadors to a pair of 3-0 sweeps last week. He shares this week's honor with Maurice Torres of Pepperdine. McKniff, who also earned conference Player of the Week honors on Jan. 11 and Feb. 15, becomes the second Northridge player in two seasons to earn three Player of the Week awards in the same season. Eric Vance also nabbed Player of the Week accolades three times in 2009. In matches at No. 10 UC Santa Barbara and at home against No. 12 Loyola, McKniff hit .680 (20-3-25) while averaging 3.33 kills, 1.17 blocks, and 0.83 aces, and 5.00 points per set. Against UCSB, he served a career-high five aces which ties for the most in a conference match this year. McKniff also hit a solid .500 (8-2-12) to go with two digs and one solo block. Then against No. 12 Loyola, he hit .846 (12-1-13) which was officially the second best clip in the MPSF this year (behind his own .929), also adding six blocks.

MATADORS IN THE MIDWEST Cal State Northridge has not ventured past the state of Utah since the 2008 season when the Matadors traveled to Illinois to take on Loyola and Lewis. With wins over Loyola and Lewis that season, Northridge improved to 9-3 in the Midwest since the 2000 season. The Matadors also traveled to Illinois in 2007 splitting matches with Loyola and Quincy and in 2002 when they split two matches at Quincy. Northridge has been more successful in the state of Indiana where the Matadors have won five of six matches. Northridge took a pair from IPFW in both 2005 and 2006 and split with Ball State in 2000. Since 2000, the Matadors are an impressive 69-21 (.767) in non-MPSF matches, including a perfect 4-0 record this season.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES With 11 wins in their first 17 MPSF matches, the Matadors are off to their third-best conference start since the 2003 season. Northridge's 2008 squad won 14 of its first 17 and the 2009 team won 13 of its first 17. Prior the 2008 season, the Matadors had never had a record better than 10-7 after 17 matches ... Seniors Ali'i Keohohou, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak, along with junior Tanner Nua and sophomore Matt Stork all continue to rank among the top of the MPSF. McKniff (.495) and Ratajczak (.481) currently rank second and third in hitting percentage while Keohohou ranks fourth in the conference in digs per game (2.82). Stork also ranks fourth in assists averaging 13.26 per game and Nua is fifth in aces at 0.36 per game ... Ball State will be the first unranked team Northridge has faced since Jan. 30 when the Matadors swept Pacific in Stockton. Northridge also defeated Cal Baptist in the second match of the season. The Lancers are not ranked in the NCAA but are the top-ranked team in the NAIA.

SCOUTING BALL STATE (12-7, 4-4 MPSF) The Cardinals snapped a two-match skid with wins at George Mason (3-1) and Rutgers-Newark (3-0) last week. Freshman OH Jamion Hartley leads Ball State averaging 3.19 kpg while junior MB J.D. Gasparovic averages 2.28 kpg while hitting a team-high .411. Junior OH Lee Meyer adds 2.96 kpg for the Cardinals who are hitting .224 as a team. Ball State has played two teams from the MPSF this season, falling to UCLA (3-0) and Pepperdine (3-0). The Cardinals are 5-2 at home with wins over Grand Canyon, Carthage, George Mason, Rutgers and IPFW.

UP NEXT Following the two-match series at Ball State, the Matadors return home for their final four home matches of the regular season. Northridge will host top-ranked Stanford and Pacific the weekend of Apr. 2-3 before closing out the MPSF home schedule against UC Santa Barbara on Apr. 7. Penn State will then visit The Matadome on Apr. 10 as the Matadors honor seniors Theo Edwards, Mike Gaudino, Ali'i Keohohou, Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak prior to the match. Northridge closes the regular season at BYU on Apr. 16-17 before potentially hosting an MPSF Tournament match.


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