Postseason Position On The Line as Third-Ranked Matadors Travel to No. 2 BYU

April 13, 2010

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Match #28

No. 3 Northridge (20-7, 14-6 MPSF) at No. 2 BYU (20-7, 14-6 MPSF)

Friday, April 16, 2010 - 7 p.m. MDT

Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) - Provo, Utah

Live Stats: (Gametracker)

Match #29

No. 3 Northridge (20-7, 14-6 MPSF) at No. 2 BYU (20-7, 14-6 MPSF)

Saturday, April 17, 2010 - 7 p.m. MDT

Smith Fieldhouse (5,000) - Provo, Utah

Live Stats: (Gametracker)

FOR STARTERS Two of the hottest teams in the MPSF meet with postseason position on the line as third-ranked Cal State Northridge (20-7, 14-6 MPSF) travels to No. 2 Brigham Young (20-7, 14-6 MPSF) for two matches Friday and Saturday. In the battle of top-three teams, BYU comes in with a conference-best 10-match win streak and the Cougars have won 11 of their last 12. Northridge brings a four-match win streak into Friday's match and the Matadors have been similarly hot, winning nine of their last 12. Depending on this weekend's results, the two teams could possibly meet again in the quarterfinals of the MPSF Tournament next week.

SERIES HISTORY This weekend's matches between the Matadors and BYU are the 49th and 50th meetings all-time between the two schools. Northridge trails 27-21 in the all-time series but has won four straight over the Cougars, including a 3-1 win in the championship of UCSB's season-opening Invitational. The Matadors took all three matches from BYU at home last season including a 3-1 win in the MPSF quarterfinals. Northridge is 8-16 all-time in 24 matches in Provo, Utah and has dropped five straight to the Cougars on their home court.

TO RECAP Senior Theo Edwards pounded a match-high 19 kills and John Baker added 18 as Northridge held off No. 11 UCSB's upset bid to win in five sets (27-30, 30-26, 30-20, 28-30, 15-12) Wednesday at The Matadome. Edwards knocked down a match-high 19 kills while hitting .375 as a season-high five Matador hitters posted double figures in kills. Edwards' output is his best since putting down 23 kills against Pepperdine in early February. Baker added 18 kills (.171), Mike Gaudino had 15 (.303) and Kevin McKniff and Jacek Ratajczak each chipped in 14. Ratajczak's 14 kills came without an error in 20 swings for a .700 hitting clip and the senior also matched his career-high with 10 blocks. On Saturday, Northridge celebrated its 2010 senior night with a 30-27, 30-24, 30-25 sweep over ninth-ranked Penn State. Edwards had a team-high 12 kills (.385) while McKniff added 10 kills (.714) and seven blocks in the finale. Gaudino posted seven kills, 13 digs and five blocks while Ratajczak chipped in eight kills and six blocks. Junior Tanner Nua came off the bench to knock down nine kills (.389). As a team, the Matadors recorded 29 block assists (14.5) and hit .336 as Matt Stork dished out 44 assists and libero Jim Wielebnicki, starting in place of injured senior Keohohou, had a season-high nine digs. Northridge limited Penn State (20-7), the third-best hitting team in the country, to a .193 hitting clip. The Nittany Lions hit .095 in the opening set and .189 in set two.

FOUR-MATCH WIN STREAK PROPELS MATADORS UP TO THIRD IN AVCA TOP-15 Following wins over No. 11 UCSB and No. 9 Penn State, Cal State Northridge moved up into a tie for third in this week's AVCA Coaches Top-15 Poll. Northridge, which received a season-high 237 points on Feb. 1, earned 202 points this week and are now tied for third with Pepperdine, the sixth time the Matadors have been ranked third this season. Stanford (18-5) remained number one for the fifth straight week earning 14 of 16 first-place votes. BYU (20-7) remained second picking up one first-place vote followed by Northridge and Pepperdine (15-8) in third and Hawai'i (17-8) is fifth. USC (14-10) is sixth followed by UCLA (15-12), UC Irvine (14-13), UC Santa Barbara (12-15) and Long Beach State (12-15). Ohio State (18-7) moves into 11th, Penn State (20-7) drops to 12th followed by Loyola-Chicago (18-4), UC San Diego (9-18) and Ball State (17-9) rounds out this week's top 15. Northridge has now been ranked in the AVCA Top-15 for 148 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.

POSTSEASON SCENARIOS With two wins at BYU, along with one Stanford loss, the Matadors would win the MPSF regular season and earn the top seed in the postseason tournament. A split at BYU, along with single loss by either Hawai'i or Pepperdine, would earn Northridge a top-four finish and a quarterfinal match at home. A pair of losses at BYU, along with wins by Pepperdine and Hawai'i, could drop the Matadors to fifth and a quarterfinal match on the road. Northridge currently holds a tiebreaker over Stanford and loses the tiebreaker to both Hawai'i and Pepperdine. The Matadors have never won the MPSF regular season title but has hosted quarterfinal matches in 2008 and 2009 and Play-In matches in 2005 and 2006.

SMITH FIELDHOUSE = TOUGH PLACE TO WIN You would have to go back four seasons (2006) for the last time BYU dropped both matches of an MPSF regular season series at home. Since the MPSF combined the two six team divisions (Mountain and Pacific) into one in 2002, the Cougars have lost both matches in a home series exactly twice. Long Beach State was the last to take both regular season matches from BYU at Smith Fieldhouse on Apr. 6-7, 2006. Pepperdine also turned the trick in 2002 sweeping both matches on BYU's home court. The Cougars have split a series 11 times over that same span but are still 102-16 (.864) on their home court since 2002.

KEOHOHOU SET TO RETURN AT BYU After suffering an ankle sprain in the opening set against UC Santa Barbara last Wednesday, senior libero Ali'i Keohohou looks to get back on the court this weekend at BYU. Sophomore Jim Wielebnicki stepped into the libero role for the remainder of the UCSB match as well as the Penn State match and tallied a season-high nine digs against the Nittany Lions.

BAKER LOOKS TO GET BACK ON TRACK Freshman John Baker has been steady for the most part since assuming the starting opposite position against USC on Feb. 24. Baker has put down double figures in kills nine times in the ensuing 12 matches including a career-high 19 kills at Pepperdine on Feb. 26. However, he has been extremely hot and cold over his last four matches. Baker was held to three kills and a negative hitting percentage in Northridge's 3-1 win over top-ranked Stanford on Apr. 2, but then bounced back with a 17-kill (.667) night against Pacific and an 18-kill effort against UC Santa Barbara over his next two matches. Baker then had a season-low one kill in 12 swings against Penn State on Saturday but is still averaging a solid 2.87 kpg while hitting .249 on the season.

NORTHRIDGE NOTES Junior Tanner Nua has become a valuable asset off the bench for the Matadors. After starting the first 15 matches of the season, Nua has appeared in seven of the last 12 off the bench. He tallied 11 kills in 25 swings against Stanford, the most he had in a match since putting down 15 at UC Irvine on Feb. 17. He then added four kills (.333) in limited action against Pacific and went over 200 kills for the season after notching nine (.389) against Penn State ... Senior Mike Gaudino has also continued his stellar play of late. After his 11-kill, 18-dig effort in the win over Stanford, he put up 15 kills and 15 digs against UC Santa Barbara last week. Gaudino capped the week with seven kills, 13 digs and five blocks in the three-set sweep over Penn State and now has 52 digs over his last four matches ... Saturday's match with Penn State was the first time the two teams had played since 1998. Northridge also defeated Penn State in the NCAA semifinals in 1993 before falling to UCLA in the title match ... the Matadors have upped their season hitting percentage to .299 while opponents are hitting .248.

SCOUTING BYU (20-7, 14-6 MPSF) The second-ranked Cougars can share the regular season title and earn a No. 1 seed with two home wins over the Matadors, along with one Stanford loss, this weekend. BYU at least clinches home court in the quarterfinals with two wins, or a split coupled with one loss by either Pepperdine or Hawaii. BYU extended its winning streak to 10 games after defeating Cal Baptist in a pair of 3-0 matches last weekend. Sophomore Robb Stowell had 14 kills while senior Andrew Stewart tallied 11 kills in Friday's win while senior Kent Tuttle tallied 17 kills and four digs on Saturday.


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