Volleyball earns split over weekend

    In a weekend that has been circled on many volleyball fans’ calendars all year, the UCSD women’s team came up with a thrilling victory over Cal Poly Pomona before dropping a tight match with Cal State San Bernardino.

    The Broncos came into RIMAC Arena with their record untarnished in California Collegiate Athletic Association play, while the Tritons looked to please the record crowd that filled the entire west side of the arena.

    Responding to a free barbecue before the game and a massive promotional effort by Triton Tide, 1,327 fans attended the game, shattering the old record of 1,135 set during the 1997 Division III championship game.

    In spite of the large crowd, the Tritons started slowly and had a hitting percentage of only .068 en route to dropping the first game 30-27. Behind the strong offense of junior Lauren Mills and numerous Bronco errors, UCSD rebounded to easily win game two 30-13. While her teammates seemed unsettled initially, Mills credited her early success to attitude.

    “”I was just going aggressive and swinging away, and once everyone else caught on to that, we were all just going aggressive,”” Mills said.

    Game three opened with a very questionable call in favor of Cal Poly that threw the Tritons off and shifted the momentum of the game. By the time UCSD had recovered, it was fighting from a 5-0 deficit. Katie Hogan had a strong service run to bring the game back even, but in the end, attack errors at inopportune times led to a 30-26 Bronco victory.

    Triton head coach Duncan McFarland later tried to explain his team’s early problems.

    “”We seemed to be real nervous tonight,”” he said. “”It’s our first big conference match at home, and knowing we’ve got a tough team [to play], it just felt like everybody was kind of tight.””

    In an attempt to shake things up, McFarland switched setters, bringing in senior Jessica Bartter in game four. Bartter made an immediate impact, coming up with several huge blocks and getting the ball to her teammates in good situations. UCSD responded by bringing the match to a pivotal fifth game with a 30-21 win.

    Senior middle blocker Jennie Wilson proved to have too much energy to contain in game five, and the final two of her team-high 15 kills, as well as her leadership on the court, pushed the Tritons over the top. Wilson’s efforts did not go unrecognized.

    “”[Wilson] is very key to this team,”” McFarland said. “”When she’s fired up and emotional, that just spreads to the team. She just wasn’t going to let a ball drop, and that really made a difference in some big rallies.””

    After the game, Wilson recognized the crowd for helping her get energized, but she also noted that the idea of playing the top team in the nation would be more than enough motivation for the following night.

    “”When you can hear people cheering and razzing the other team, and you can see the other team crumbling under that pressure, I think that’s going to help,”” Wilson said. “”But when tomorrow rolls around, no one’s tired anymore. We know [CSUSB’s team] so well, and all we want to do is beat them.””

    Saturday’s match proved to be the latest chapter in a fierce rivalry. Long before the first serve of the day, any chance of a friendly gathering was dashed when Mills was called a “”bitch”” by one of the Coyote coaches, as several Triton players reported later. This was about more than just volleyball.

    “”It’s an intense rivalry. There’s a lot of hatred between personalities, and that’s what I didn’t know before,”” said sophomore transfer and newcomer-to-the-feud Bonnie Wilson. “”Some of those girls on that team are just rude.””

    In the first game, however, the Coyotes were polite guests. They fumbled their way through the first game and dropped it to a UCSD squad that didn’t play very well either.

    The second game brought another 30-28 score, but this time CSUSB was able to come up with the critical points that leveled the match.

    The third game stayed tight. The Tritons stretched out to a 26-22 lead late in the game, due in large part to the play off the bench of freshmen Francesca Centofanti and Brianna Koche. The lead was short-lived, however, as the Coyotes made an 8-2 run to take another game 30-28.

    With their backs against the wall in the fourth game, UCSD came out fighting and dominated the pace and flow of the game, surging to a seven-point lead at 19-12. Bonnie Wilson led the Tritons on the night with 22 kills, eight of them coming in the fourth game.

    However, from that point on, the Tritons began to make mistakes. Down the stretch, it was Coyote star Kim Ford who took over the game, notching the last of her match-high 27 kills to seal the CSUSB victory at 30-26.

    After rallying to the cry of “”Together!”” the night before, the Tritons met with McFarland in a back room for 25 minutes following the loss to figure out what had gone wrong.

    “”We’re playing very, very hard individually, but we haven’t gelled as a team,”” McFarland said. “”I’m confident that we can beat [CSUSB], but we’ll need to improve quite a bit before we do that.””

    The Tritons will work at that improvement in their upcoming home CCAA matches on Oct. 2, 4 and 5, counting the days until the rematch with CSUSB on Nov. 1, and trying to get back to playing “”together.””

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