NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Jacek Ratajczak led No. 3 Cal State Northridge with 19 kills as the Matadors advanced to the MPSF Tournament semifinals with a hard-fought 30-17, 31-33, 33-31, 30-26 quarterfinal win over No.6 USC Saturday at The Matadome.
Northridge (22-8) advances to meet second-seeded BYU in the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament next Thursday, Apr. 29 at Stanford's Maples Pavilion. The Trojans' season ends at 16-11. The Matadors extended their winning streak over USC to 17 straight matches.
Ratajczak, who hit .500 with just one error in 36 swings, also added nine blocks (two solo) and one ace. Senior Theo Edwards added 11 kills (.192) and three blocks and fellow senior Mike Gaudino chipped in 10 kills (.156), 12 digs and three aces.
Matador libero Ali'i Keohohou had a team-high 13 digs while Matt Stork dished out 52 assists to go with nine digs and five blocks.
Northridge out-hit USC .240 (60-24-150) to .112 (57-40-152) and had one of its best blocking efforts of the season with 19.0 team blocks, including six solo stuffs.
The Matadors dominated the opening set winning 30-17. Northridge hit .286 in the frame while limiting the Trojans to a -.069 clip. The Matadors had nine team blocks in the set which helped Northridge build a 14-8 lead after Ratajczak and Stork blocked Tony Ciarelli. After USC closed to within 20-15 on an Austin Zahn solo block, the Matadors rolled off five straight to extend the lead to 25-15 before salting the set away 30-17.
The second set was the tightest of the match as the teams traded the lead 10 times. After the Trojans took an early 4-0 lead, the Matadors battled back to take their first lead at 7-6 following a Murphy Troy hitting error. But USC retook the lead and extended it to two (10-8) following a Ciarelli ace. USC also led by two at 14-12 before three straight Northridge points put the Matadors back in front 15-14 following a Ratajczak kill.
The lead see-sawed until the Trojans opened up a 25-22 lead only to see the Matadors claim seven of the next nine points to 29-27 edge. But a Ciarelli kill followed by a Troy ace tied the set and then at 31-31 a Stork service error and a Troy kill evened the set at 1-1.
Set three was all USC at the outset as the Trojans won 11 of the first 15 points to bolt to an 11-4 lead. The Matadors slowly battled back behind sub John Baker as Northridge clawed to within 13-10 forcing a Trojan timeout. A 3-0 Matador run gave Northridge lead at 18-17 before Gaudino's attack went long and the score was tied at 18. But an Edwards kill followed by a pair of Trojan hitting errors and a Baker solo block gave the Matadors a 22-18 advantage. A Ciarelli hitting error gave Northridge its largest lead at 28-23 and capped a 24-12 Matador run. But then USC scored five straight points to tie it at 28-28 and the set stayed tight until a Ratajczak kill and a Trojan hitting error gave the Matadors the decisive set.
In the final set, the Trojans again led early opening up a 7-4 lead after a Gaudino service error. But the Matadors tied it at 10-10 and then Gaudino's kill capped a 5-0 run giving the Matadors the lead at 15-12. The Trojans battled back to tie the set for the final time at 17-17 following a Troy kill, but the Matadors quickly built the lead back to four with a 4-0 run. The Trojans would get as close as 27-26 in the final stages before attack errors from Ciarelli and Troy were followed by a McKniff ace on match point.
Troy had a match-high 23 kills and added 10 digs for USC, while Ciarelli had 14 kills and Tyler Stevens chipped in eight kills and seven digs. Maddison McKibbin had a match-high 15 digs in the loss.
Cal State Northridge and BYU will meet for the fourth time this season with the Matadors winning two of the previous three matches. Top-seeded Stanford will play the winner of Saturday's late match between No. 4 seed Pepperdine and No. 5 Hawaii. Thursday's order of matches will be decided Sunday.
- GO MATADORS -
Senior Mike Gaudino had 10 kills, 12 digs and three aces in the Matadors' MPSF quarterfinal win over USC