There was no UC love for the Tritons this weekend, not even in a single game.
On Feb. 25, the UCSD men’s volleyball team lost to No. 2 UC Irvine in straight sets: 20-30, 27-30, 22-30.
The loss dropped the Tritons to 1-14 for the season and 0-11 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, while the Anteaters improved to 14-3, 9-2 MPSF.
UCSD actually put up a fight the whole night against a very good defensive team, including freshman libero Brent Asuka, who leads the MPSF in digs.
“They had to play well to beat us, [and] we got their respect,” senior outside hitter Jon Daze said. “We lost, but we’re taking a lot of positives from this game.”
After falling behind early in game one, 6-14, the Tritons scored six-straight points. But as usual, a service error caused a switch in momentum. Irvine would take advantage by putting together a mini run to lead 15-23 and eventually take game one 20-30.
With several ties and a few lead changes, the two teams went back and forth, exchanging points throughout game two. UCSD came out aggressively, leading 13-11 at one point and forcing the Anteaters to call a time out. Irvine started to come back, but every time the Anteaters put a small run together, the Tritons came back with one of their own. After trailing by four points, UCSD cut the lead by one, forcing Irvine to take another time out.
“We fought hard, we really battled with them,” head coach Kevin Ring said. “We don’t need to make a lot of improvements, just one or two plays makes a difference for the game.”
The Tritons would go on to tie the game at 25-25. The Anteaters then scored the next two points before a kill by junior middle blocker Garret Smith pulled the Tritons within range at 26-27. Irvine next scored three of the following next four points to close out game two 27-30 on sophomore middle blocker Aaron Harrell’s kill.
“For whatever reason, even if San Diego is having a year where they don’t have a great record, they always play the UCs tough,” Irvine coach John Speraw said. “They had their chances to beat us, but we made a few more plays at the end of each game.”
The Anteaters took a four-point lead in game three, but UCSD came back to make the score 16-17.
Mistakes would prove more costly for the Tritons in the latter part of the game, as Irvine showed why it is ranked at No. 2 with a 13-6 run to end the match at 22-30.
“The problem is, when you make an error late in the game, you don’t have any room for recovery and it’s hard to come back from it,” Ring said.
The night before, UCSD lost in straight sets to No. 7 UCLA, 26-30, 22-30, 14-30.
In game one, the Tritons looked strong, leading late in the game, 24-22. However, the Bruins went on to score six-straight times with the help of four UCSD errors, and would go on to win, 25-30.
In game two, the Bruins jumped out early to take a 10-point lead, 11-21. The Tritons could not get their defense going, only tallying up one block as a team for the match. UCLA took advantage by hitting .412 and cruised to a 22-30 win.
UCSD led early in game three but found themselves deadlocked with UCLA at 9-9. The Bruins were not fazed by the early threat and scored 12 of the next 13 points to lead 10-21. The Tritons were in too deep to recover and lost the game 14-30.
Senior outside hitter Mike Reuter led the Tritons with 11 kills and a .308 hitting clip, while junior opposite Steve Klosterman paced UCLA with 16 kills and only one error.
The Tritons are back in action against No. 8 UC Santa Barbara on March 3 and No. 5 Cal State Northridge on March 4.