Men's volleyball ready for tough competition

The UCSD men’s volleyball team faces significant odds against a successful season in the coming year, competing as the only Division II team and the only non-scholarship team in the intensely competitive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. However, with a blend of experience, energy and a heightened dedication to fitness, the Tritons may be able to beat the odds.

Guardian file photo

UCSD brings back its two leaders in kills from last year’s 7-23 effort with flamboyant junior Jim Waller at opposite and senior Eric Perrine at one of the outside hitter positions. Brian Foott, who tied for the team lead in blocks with Perrine, will be key for the Tritons at the middle blocker position, and senior Chris Mortimer will help anchor the UCSD defense from his libero position. The greatest concern for the Tritons, however, will be at setter.

The loss of three-year starting setter Jordan Hove to graduation leaves a huge void on head coach Ron Larsen’s squad, but in an ongoing experiment several players have attempted to fill the role. Nate Jones and Ty Thoreson are each expected to see some time at setter, but junior Joe Griffin has recently been added to the mix, and teammates are excited at the potential he is showing. As of Jan. 8, the starter at setter for Jan. 10’s opening match against Cal Baptist was yet to be determined.

UCSD will be forced to come up big in key situations this season to compete.

“”The key is putting the right balls down and winning the right points,”” Perrine said.

Even if they are able to accomplish that task, UCSD will be hard pressed to meet its goal as a team with an MPSF conference schedule. Of the top 15 teams ranked by the American Volleyball Coaches Association at the end of last season, nine of them were from the MPSF.

“”Our team goal is to make the playoffs for the MPSF,”” junior Andy Rupp said. “”We want to win eight in the league and rationally, I think we can do that.””

One of Larsen’s biggest challenges in his fourth year at UCSD will be getting the team to play together, since this year’s squad possesses more skill than many previous years and the players claim to have worked harder than ever in preparation for the season.

Playing against the toughest competition the nation has to offer, the Tritons will have a chance to elevate themselves among such MPSF elite as Hawaii, USC, Stanford, UCLA and Pepperdine — if they can play well consistently and find a little bit of luck. Regardless of whether or not they’re able to achieve the standards that have been set, past seasons have taught Triton fans that UCSD will battle fiercely and be fun to watch. If the Tritons can solve their setting dilemma and build off of previous years’ progress, they may not only be fun to watch; they may surprise some people.