Tritons lose to ranked UCI, UCLA

    UCSD’s men’s volleyball team looked for its first victory of the season when it traveled to UC Irvine and UC Los Angeles this weekend.

    UCI was ranked eighth in the standings, and UCLA was the top-ranked school in all of men’s volleyball. With losses to tough Division I schools like USC and Pepperdine in back-to-back games, the Tritons knew they had a strong chance to get back in the playoff race with victories against Irvine and UCLA.

    “”We knew UCI and UCLA were going to be difficult wins because they were both ranked,”” freshman Luke Honnette said. “”But going into the match, we knew we could play well as a unit and get a victory, at least.””

    In the first set against Irvine, UCSD couldn’t convert on many kill opportunities, hitting a dismal 3.8 percent of its shots. Even UC Irvine couldn’t find their rhythm, hitting just 9.5 percent of their opportunities.

    The first set came down to execution and UCSD couldn’t capitalize on a great play by Adam Toren and Jim Waller as they lost the set 30-18. In the second set, both teams picked up the tempo, but UC Irvine was more precise, killing 18 out of 31 shot attempts.

    The Tritons had opportunities as well, but only converted 11 out of 31 kill attempts. They lost the set 30-19 to set up a must-win third and final set to extend the match.

    The third set saw a better effort from UCSD when the team tried to avert elimination. The Tritons picked up the dismal hitting display of the first two sets to kill 13 of 34 attempts. The passing picked up and the players communicated well across the field.

    Yet junior Jimmy Pelzel of Irvine took over the game when he made kills from everywhere on the court. UCSD lost the set 30-23, as well as the match to drop its record to 0-4 and 0-3 in conference play.

    Adam Toren led the team with nine kills out of 15 attempts and kept his team within reach throughout the match. Sophomore Jim Waller and junior Eric Perrine had solid games with seven kills and six kills, respectively. Senior Jordan Hove and junior Matthew Miller added four digs to lead the Tritons in that category.

    Yet they were no match for Irvine’s Pelzel who was the only player to record double-digit kills with 11 and had five digs in the effort.

    “”In the beginning of the game against Irvine, there was a lack of communication among our players,”” Honnette said. “”We got better in that category — as well as passing — as the match went on, and we know we are a solid team and can beat Irvine the next time we face them.””

    The next match for the Tritons was against UCLA, which was no easy opponent. The Bruins came into the match with a record of 7-1 and 2-0 in conference play. The first set, however, showed that the Tritons were worthy opponents.

    “”In the first game against both Irvine and LA,”” Honnette noted, “”we just had a lot of fun because we knew we had nothing to lose. We served well, passed well, but the difference was in the passing. They seemed to be more precise on their sets than we were, and that changed the complexion of the match.””

    The first set game went down to the wire when UCLA mustered just enough to win 30-28. The Tritons couldn’t keep the momentum. UCLA went on to win 30-21, 30-22.

    Senior Griffin Cogorno and sophomore Shawn Oksenendier each recorded nine kills to lead UCSD. The Tritons’ record dropped to 0-5 and 0-4 in conference play.

    The next match features a strong Princeton University team, but the Tritons feel optimistic about their chances after a strong showing in Los Angeles.

    “”We know they are supposed to be a strong squad,”” Honnette admitted, “”but we are just going out there and have some fun. We have a new offense we are trying out, and this will be a good place to start.””

    The game against Princeton is Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. at RIMAC Arena.

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