No. 3 CS Northridge Pounds Out a Four-Set Win Over No. 6 BYU


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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior Eric Vance knocked down a match-high 21 kills to lead third-seeded Cal State Northridge to a 30-26, 30-24, 27-30, 30-27 win over sixth-seeded BYU in an MPSF quarterfinal match Saturday at The Matadome.

With the win, the Matadors (24-6) advance to the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament against second-seeded Pepperdine Thursday at UC Irvine. The loss for BYU ends the Cougars season at 17-13.

Northridge also sets a school record with its 24th win of the season surpassing the 1993 and 2008 Matador teams who posted 23 wins.

Vance overcame a slow start as the First Team All-MPSF pick had a match-high 21 kills to go with four digs, three blocks and one ace while hitting .311. Vance hit .100 in the Matadors' 30-26 set one win but rebounded to hit .556 in set two, .231 in set three and .385 in the fourth set.

Juniors Jacek Ratajczak and Mike Gaudino both added 13 kills and fellow junior Kevin McKniff chipped in 12. All three hit well as Ratajczak posted a match-high .765 clip and Gaudino and McKniff both hit .500. Ratajczak also added seven blocks to his stat line. Setter Matt Stork posted 57 assists as the Matadors hit .354 as a team. Libero Ali'i Keohohou recorded a co-match-high 11 digs in the win.

Northridge overcame several early BYU leads in set one as 4-0 Matador run turned an 8-6 Cougar lead into a 10-8 advantage. However an ensuing 4-0 run by BYU put the Cougars back on top 12-10 following a Gaudino hitting error. The Cougars led 15-14 when back-to-back kills from Gaudino and McKniff gave the Matadors to lead for good at 16-15. BYU tied the score at 16-16 and 17-17 before Northridge claimed five of the next six points to open up a 22-18 cushion. The Matador lead swelled to as many as five at 25-20 before the Cougars pulled within three at 28-25 and 29-26. But Tanner Nua ended any BYU hopes of a comeback as his kill on set point ended the frame.

Northridge led from start to finish in the second set as the Matadors bolted to a 4-1 lead highlighted by a Ratajczak kill and a co-block from Ratajczak and Stork on the Cougars' Russell Lavaja. But a Lavaja-Alex Du Pron block on Nua cut the Northridge lead to 8-7 before a McKniff kill followed by a pair from Gaudino boosted the lead back to 11-7. The Matadors looked to be comfortably in front 19-14 before BYU engineered a 4-0 run trimming the lead to 19-18. But an ensuing 6-1 Northridge run put the Matadors in the driver's seat at 25-19 and Northridge closed out the second set 30-24.

Down two sets, BYU came out in fire in the third set as the Cougars jumped out to a 16-8 lead. The Matadors, however slowly began to chip away at the lead and pulled within two at 22-20 on a Theo Edwards kill. BYU was able to maintain its lead until a Vance kill followed by an Edwards-Ratajczak block evened the set for the first time at 25-25. The score would be tied two more times, the last at 27-27, before a kill from Sagers and a block from Lavaja and Stewart brought up set point for BYU. Tuttle, Lavaja and Stewart finished the Matadors off with a block for the 30-27 win.

In the decisive fourth set, the score was tied early 4-4 before the Matadors used a pair of Vance kills, a Vance solo block and an Edwards kill to open up an 8-4 lead. Northridge maintained its lead and appeared to have things well in hand at 19-13 but the Cougars would not go away. Trailing 23-18, BYU put together a 6-1 run to even the set at 24-24 after Vance was stuffed by Futi Tavana and Du Pron. But Vance answered on the next point and an ensuing 3-1 Northridge run gave the Matadors the cushion they needed to pull out the 30-27 win.

Andrew Stewart led the Cougars with 17 kills (.361) while Lavaja (.688) and Kent Tuttle (.148) added 13 and 10 kills respectively. Lavaja also had a match-high nine blocks while libero Joel Silva matched Northridge's Keohohou with 11 digs.

Cal State Northridge and Pepperdine will meet Thursday in the second match of the MPSF semifinals at UC Irvine's Bren Center. The first match of the night features fifth-seed USC taking on top-seed UC Irvine.

Article courtesy of Cal State Northridge athletics.

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