Top-Ranked CS Northridge Wins Ninth Straight With Victory Over No. 8 BYU


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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - No. 1 Cal State Northridge nailed down its ninth-consecutive win as senior Eric Vance had a match-high 13 kills in the Matadors' 30-28, 30-24, 30-28 victory over No. 8 BYU Friday in The Matadome.

The nine-match win streak for Northridge (15-2, 11-2 MPSF) is the longest since the Matadors' put together a school-record 14-match win streak in 2008. Northridge also swept a two-match season series from BYU (9-8, 7-5 MPSF) for the first time since 1995.

The Matadors hit .297 (41-14-91) as a team as Vance led the way with 13 kills and a .345 hitting clip. The senior outside hitter also served a season-high five aces, which is one off his career-high, and contributed a pair of blocks (one solo). Junior Kevin McKniff also had a solid match for the second straight night against the Cougars. McKniff added nine kills with just one error in 15 swings for a .533 hitting clip to go with one ace and three block assists. Matt Stork posted 36 assists, five digs and a career-high six blocks (one solo) in the win.

Despite falling in three sets, the Cougars had a slight advantage in several statistical categories. BYU had 45 kills to Northridge's 41, posted a 43-39 edge in assists, a 29-21 edge in digs and won the net battle with 10.5 team blocks to 9.5 for the Matadors. Northridge served tough when it needed to posting seven team aces while BYU was held without an ace.

In a tightly contested first set that consisted of 15 ties and seven lead changes, the Matadors took an early 8-5 lead after Russell Lavaja hit out. Northridge also led by three at 10-7 before a 4-1 Cougar run tied the score at 11. The two teams then traded sideouts until 16-16 when back-to-back Andrew Stewart kills gave BYU its biggest lead of the set at 18-16. The Cougars also led 22-21 when a Vance kill evened the score and propelled the Matadors on a 5-0 run which gave Northridge some breathing room at 26-22. But Alex Da Pron came off the bench to ignite BYU on a 4-0 run which tied the frame for the 13th time. Following a Tanner Nua kill, the Cougars got back-to-back kills from Da Pron and Stewart to take a 28-27 lead. A Jacek Ratajczak kill evened things at 28 and, as was the case on Thursday, BYU committed back-to-back hitting errors and the Matadors took set one 30-28.

Set two was close for the first 16 points as the teams traded the lead until 8-8. But a Vance kill, a Ratajczak ace and a McKniff-Vance block on Mat Taylor opened up an 11-8 Matador lead. The Cougars were able to pull within two on a pair of occasions, the last at 15-13, before Northridge extended its lead to as many as six (22-16) following a Stewart attack error. The Matadors led 29-24 when Kent Tuttle served long and Northridge was up two sets to none.

The Cougars dominated the third set from the beginning as they jumped out to a 12-5 lead following a Da Pron kill forcing the Matadors to use their second timeout. BYU also led by seven at 14-7 and 17-10 before Northridge slowly began to chip away at the deficit. Trailing by five at 24-19, the Matadors used two kills and two aces from both Vance and McKniff along with a Stork-Ratajczak block to to knot pull even at 25-25. BYU took its final lead at 27-26 when Tuttle and Tavana blocked Gaudino but Ratajczak and Stork teamed up to block Kevin Sagers and the score was tied for the fourth and final time at 27-27. Kills from Gaudino and Vance coupled with a Sagers attack error gave the Matadors the win 30-28.

Sagers wound up leading BYU with 12 kills (.286) while Stewart chipped in eight kills (.158) and Tuttle added six (.133) off the bench. Cougar setter Yamil Perez posted 37 assists and a match-high nine digs.

Cal State Northridge continues its seven-match homestand next week as the Matadors entertain UCLA on Wednesday, Mar. 11 and UC Irvine on Friday, Mar. 13.

Article courtesy of Cal State Northridge athletics.

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