UC San Diego men’s volleyball closed out the regular season with a 3–1 loss to California State University, Northridge on Saturday, April 13, 25–23, 15–25, 16–25, 19–25. Despite winning their first set in just over a month, the Tritons couldn’t stop the Matadors from dealing them their sixth consecutive loss, leaving them 7–19 on the season and still searching for their first conference win in two seasons in the Big West Conference.
UCSD was able to come out on top of the narrowly contested first set; sophomore outside hitter Wyatt Harrison recorded a kill to bring up set point, then drilled an ace past CSU N to win the Tritons a set for the first time since March 12.
But the momentum didn’t last, as UCSD had an abysmal offensive showing in the second set, recording five errors against just six kills. CSUN, meanwhile, went on a 6–1 run in the middle of the set and never looked back. It was much of the same story in the second to last set, as the Matadors again pulled away from UCSD mid-set to regain the lead.
The Tritons never led in the final set. Despite two consecutive late kills from UCSD redshirt junior outside hitter Xander Jimenez on assists from junior setter Connor Walbrecht, the Matadors were never in danger, and the match ended after a block by CSUN’s Paul Rzepniewski and Ksawery Tomsia. For the second straight night, the Matadors’ Dimitar Kalchev had the Tritons’ number, leading both teams with 17 kills.
In the last home match of the season the night before, UCSD came up short 23–25, 26–28, 23–25 against the same CSUN team. Despite keeping the match close for its entirety, the Tritons couldn’t put together enough momentum to take a set from the Matadors in front of their home crowd at RIMAC Arena.
UCSD trailed for nearly every second of the first set despite keeping it close. Although the Tritons fended off three straight set points, CSUN’s early lead proved too much to overcome, as the Matadors took the first set 25–23.
The second set started out quite differently for the Tritons, who leapt out of the break with a 12–6 run to start the set. Among the highlights was a diving save by Jimenez, honored before the match as the lone graduating senior, as he tracked back past the baseline to salvage the play for a Triton score. But the Matadors slowly chipped away, leveling the match at 24 apiece. UCSD took a 26–25 lead on a Jimenez kill to earn a set point, but three straight CSUN kills gave the Matadors the 28–26 victory.
The third set was similar to the first, as CSUN opened up a commanding lead that the Tritons couldn’t respond to. Despite a 5–0 run to pull within one late in the set, UCSD couldn’t complete the comeback, as the Matadors squeezed by yet again. While the Tritons put up a season-high 14.5 blocks to their opponents’ 7, the CSUN offense was just too much to handle, and the team couldn’t avoid a loss to yet another conference opponent. The team, despite big-time efforts during conference play, ended the regular season without a win against Big West opponents.
The season continues in the Big West Conference Tournament in Hawaii and UCSD will come in as the sixth seed, the lowest in the tournament. The opening game comes on Thursday, April 18 against third-ranked University of California, Irvine at 8 p.m. PST. The Tritons have taken 3 of 9 sets from the Anteaters in their two matches this season, making this matchup one of the best chances for UCSD to pull off an upset and advance in the tournament.