Coming off of their upset win over the No. 11 Loyola University Chicago on Thursday night, the UC San Diego Tritons failed to maintain their momentum at home, falling to the No. 6 Lewis University Flyers in straight sets, 22–25, 19–25, 18–25 on Saturday, Jan. 11.
The Tritons had the support of a sizeable weekend home crowd of nearly 500 fans and the always-pesky band, but the height of the Flyers, especially that of redshirt junior middle back Tyler Mitchem (6’11”) and redshirt senior outside hitter Ryan Coenen (6’9”), meant that the Tritons had a difficult time stringing together points.
In the first set, UCSD recorded 5 blocks to Lewis’ 7, with 3 of the 5 coming in the final four plays of the set. By the end of the night, UCSD only trailed by 6 blocks, but the effect of the Flyers’ lanky attack was felt in more ways than one.
“Whenever you play a team with guys that are 6’10” and 6’11”, that’s a formidable [team],” head coach Kevin Ring said. “With that much size on the other side, we had trouble setting up our attack.”
Ten missed serves and a low hitting percentage (.177) hurt the Tritons, keeping the home team from building any sort of run against the Flyers. UCSD only could string together a 4–0 run once on the night, while Lewis racked up five-plus point runs multiple times over the course of the match.
“They served really well, especially down the stretch,” Ring said. “For us going forward, it’s all about getting comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”
After an even start to the first set, the Tritons found themselves down 17–10 after a resounding block by Coenen to set up a 3–0 run for the Flyers, which prompted a UCSD timeout. From that point on, the Tritons’ star transfer junior outside hitter Kyle McCauley rattled off 5 kills to bring the home team back to within 2 points, but the former Orange Coast College Pirates standout missed a block to give the Flyers the set.
Seven of the first 10 points scored by both teams in the second set came via service errors, a trend that would continue to plague UCSD for the rest of the night. After tying the score at 9–9, Coenen unleashed a booming cross-court kill that sparked the increasingly flightless Flyers’ offense. After the kill, Lewis went on a 4–1 run before a McCauley spike stopped the bleeding.
Another Coenen kill pushed the advantage to 7 points for the Flyers, before McCauley again ended the run for the opposition, smashing kills in back-to-back points to bring the Tritons back to within 4 points at 21–16, much to the delight of the home crowd. But the momentum would not last long, as more miscues by the Tritons kept any run from forming beyond one of the two-point variety.
By the third set, Coenen and the Flyers had found their groove, jumping out to a 5–2 lead that the visitors never risked losing.
Coenen finished with 13 kills and a pair of blocks for Lewis, while McCauley paced UCSD, contributing a match-leading 17 kills in the losing effort.
After a tricky homestand against a pair of top-12 opponents to begin their season, the Tritons will have two more home games this coming week against the Vassar University Brewers and the rival UCLA Bruins before going on the road to take on the Grand Canyon University Lopes.