In their two non-conference matches, the Tritons topped the New Jersey Institute of Technology in five sets on Saturday, Jan. 14 before being swept by Grand Canyon the following day.
Sophomore setter Mike Brunsting coordinated the Triton attack on Saturday, recording a career-high of 55 assists and 12 digs against the Highlanders.
Outside hitter Carl Eberts also finished with a double-double, 15 kills and 11 digs.
The 0-1 Highlanders and the Tritons each recorded 14 kills in the first set, as the squads traded points, New Jersey Tech took the set 21-25.
In the second set, UCSD rebounded, taking the first five points off four kills from sophomore outside hitter Vaun Lennon.
“[Lennon] did a lot of work for us today,” said head coach Kevin Ring. “He really carried a big load for us, finishing with 49 swings.”
Lennon finished with 22 kills, nine digs and four blocks, combining for a career-high total of 24.5 points, leading the Tritons to a 25-21 win in the second set.
Riding the momentum, UCSD took the third set 26-24, but fell in the fourth 20-25.
“In the game against [New Jersey Institute of Technology] we definitely came out slow,” said Ring. “But we got the big points when we needed them.”
In overtime, the Tritons rallied, recording two consecutive points to take the set, 15-13.
“Both teams had a hard time sustaining runs today,” said Ring. “We just made some key plays down the stretch that really made the difference for us.”
With the win, UCSD improves to 2-2, while New Jersey Tech falls to 0-2.
The Tritons did not fair as well in their second ever match against host, Grand Canyon University.
The Antelopes beat the Tritons in straight sets, to record their first win in program history against a team from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Despite 11 kills apiece from Eberts and Lennon, UCSD never really came close to Grand Canyon.
The Tritons fell 21-25 in the first and second sets and 19-25 in the third set.
“The biggest issue for us today was the service aces,” said Ring to members of the athletics department. “When one guy misses a serve, it puts a lot of pressure on the next guy and added pressure on the rest of our game.”
The Tritons committed 18 service errors compared to the Antelopes’ 13 errors.
UCSD didn’t play particularly poorly, but was just edged out by Grand Canyon in all categories.
The Antelopes had an attack percentage of .304 on 40 kills, 12 errors and 92 attempts, just better than UCSD’s .202 attack percentage on 36 kills, 17 errors and 94 attempts.
The Tritons now fall to 3-2 overall as they enter their conference matchup against No. 2 UC Irvine on Saturday, Jan. 21.
“We’re going in facing one of the top teams in the country, and it’s going to be a tough match,” said Ring. “In the MPSF so many teams are so good that it’s always difficult, but I think we’re getting back to playing some good volleyball. We’re just going to go in and play to the best of our abilities and if we’re doing that then we have the advantage.”