Northridge outlasts Warriors in 5 sets
The man in the middle was The Man.
Middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak slammed 30 kills — with no errors — in 41 swings to power third-ranked Cal State Northridge to a 30-27, 28-30, 26-30, 30-28, 15-12 victory over Hawai'i last night in the Matadome.
The Matadors improved to 13-5 overall and 10-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
The Warriors fell to 10-6 and 6-5.
The rematch is tonight.
The Warriors had a balanced attack that, in the end, was not enough against the Matadors' one-sided offense.
Unlike most NCAA teams, the Matadors' offense is inverted, with most of the sets going — quickly — to the middle blockers.
And at 7 feet 2, Ratajczak, who is the NCAA's tallest volleyball player, was a convenient target for setter Matt Stork.
Stork delivered 31.5 percent of his 130 sets to Ratajczak.
"That's their style," UH assistant coach Dan Fisher said of the Matadors' offense. "They like to pound the middle, and he was hot."
The Warriors hit a respectable .327 for the match.
UH opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft had 27 kills in an arm-numbing 60 attempts.
Left-side hitter Joshua Walker added 23 kills in 42 swings.
Steven Hunt, UH's second left-side hitter, contributed 19 kills.
But overall, the Matadors hit .440 for the match, committing only 14 errors in 150 swings.
Seven of their errors were blocks, meaning that they committed only seven unforced mistakes. They committed two attack errors apiece in the first and fourth sets.
Still, the Warriors were able to remain competitive. They dominated the second and third sets. But the Matadors hit .528 in the fourth set to force extra play.
In the first-to-15 fifth set, Fisher said, "it was pretty level of siding out by both teams. It was just a deuce game, where one or two errors was enough."
The Warriors will have little recovery time.
"Can we slow the big guy and convert a few more transition points?" Fisher said.