Third-Ranked CS Northridge Tops No. 4 USC


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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Senior Eric Vance knocked down a match-high 26 kills as No. 3 Cal State Northridge held off No. 4 USC 30-27, 30-28, 29-31, 30-21 in an MPSF match Friday at The Matadome.

With the win, the Matadors improve to 21-5 overall and remain in the MPSF title chase at 14-5. The loss drops the Trojans to 16-7 overall and 12-6 in conference play. The win also ran Northridge's win streak over USC to 14 straight. The last time the Matadors lost to the Trojans was Feb. 11, 2004.

Vance, the lone senior on the 2009 Matador roster, celebrated senior night in grand style as he completed a fantastic week with 26 kills and just four errors in 51 swings to hit .431 against the Trojans. Vance had a season-high 33 kills while hitting .518 in Wednesday's five-set loss to No. 2 Pepperdine. He also added a co-match-high three aces which gives him 50 for the season. Junior Mike Gaudino added 13 kills (.286) eight digs and four blocks while Jacek Ratajczak chipped in 10 kills (.421) and a pair of block assists. Matador libero Ali'i Keohohou had a solid match with 16 digs and Matt Stork posted 53 assists in leading Northridge to a .315 team hitting clip.

The Matadors, who have struggled lately with service errors, served up 10 aces with just 12 errors while the Trojans had five aces and 21 errors.

Set one was the tightest of the match as the set featured 11 ties and six lead changes. Northridge overcame an early 5-2 deficit and USC came back from 11-8 deficit to take an 17-16 following a Murphy Troy ace. But an ensuing 4-0 Matador run, capped by a pair of Kevin McKniff aces, put Northridge in front to stay at 20-17. USC was able to pull within one four times in the latter stages, the final time at 27-26, before the Matadors closed the set by claiming three of the final four points.

The Trojans appeared poised to even the match after leading for a majority of set two. USC jumped out to a 12-8 lead and would lead by as many as six points (20-14) before the Matadors began to mount a comeback. A Vance kill capped a 5-0 Northridge run which cut the Trojan lead to 20-19. USC would not relinquish its lead and would lead by two at 26-24 before a Tony Ciarelli service error and a Gaudino kill evened the frame at 26-26. An Austin Zahn kill put the Trojans up 27-26 but Vance answered and the set was even for the final time. Another Vance kill followed by a Hunter Current hitting error gave the Matadors the cushion they needed and Gaudino's kill on set point put Northridge up two sets.

The Trojans hit .300 to the Matadors .194 as USC claimed a thrilling third set 31-29.With the score tied 29-29, the Trojans used a Ciarelli kill and a Ratajczak hitting error to close out the set.

In the fourth and final set, Northridge bolted to an early 8-3 lead and never looked back. The Matador lead grew to 14-7 after a Troy hitting error and Northridge led by as many as eight at 19-11. The Matador lead was never less than six points the remainder of the set as Northridge cruised home 30-21.

Troy (25 kills) and Ciarelli (20) combined for 45 kills to lead the Trojans while setter Riley McKibbin posted 61 assists and seven digs.

Cal State Northridge heads out on the road for its final three matches of the regular season beginning next Friday, Apr. 10 at UC San Diego.

Article courtesy of Cal State Northridge athletics.

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