Tritons win back-to-back over OSU

    The fourth set of hands was the charm for the Tritons as senior Eric Perrine’s insertion into the setter position gave the team a new spark and lifted the UCSD men’s volleyball team to consecutive victories over Ohio State University.

    Seema Duggal
    Guardian

    UCSD suffered its second consecutive loss to open the season on Jan. 15 when it traveled to The Pyramid to open its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedule against the 49ers of Long Beach State University. The 49ers scored the first five points of the match, and from there things failed to improve for the Tritons. Tye Thoreson, Joe Griffin and Nate Jones combined for 30 assists on the night, while splitting time at the setter position, but the UCSD offense never got on track. Lapses also allowed long 49er runs, which broke games wide open and sent the Tritons reeling 3-0 (30-19, 30-26, 30-22).

    After opening the season in unimpressive form, UCSD head coach Ron Larsen looked for a solution to his team’s frustrating start by moving the most stable piece of his puzzle.

    Perrine started his career at UCSD as a setter, but during his sophomore year he moved to middle blocker — where at 6 feet, 3 inches, he is considered small — and finished in the top 10 in the nation in blocks. To start this campaign, Perrine lined up at outside hitter and led his team in kills and digs through the first two matches. When Larsen suggested that he spend some time in practice working on his setting, Perrine returned to his original position and found a new way to shine.

    Jake Mumm
    Guardian

    The 13th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes’ visit to RIMAC Arena for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader gave the Tritons a chance to get off to a good start with their new lineup. However, the first game of the match on Jan. 18 appeared to be more of the same when UCSD stayed close to OSU, but the Buckeyes pulled away late for a 30-26 victory.

    The Tritons appeared to grow more confident as the match progressed, and in the second game, their efforts were finally rewarded. Sophomore outside hitter Adam Toren picked up six of his 18 kills and junior opposite Jim Waller worked toward his match-high total of 30 when UCSD closed it out 30-27.

    Game three remained close throughout, but the Triton block came up with two huge plays with UCSD holding on to a narrow 21-20 lead late in the game that opened up a three-point advantage and gave the Tritons enough to come out on top 30-26.

    In the fourth game, the Buckeyes seemed to fold with the momentum entirely in the Triton court and UCSD rolled at 30-20.

    When the dust had settled, the Tritons compiled an impressive stat sheet with a .377 attacking percentage, 12.5 team blocks and 31 digs, but most impressive were the numbers for the new setter. Perrine totaled 65 assists — two more than the Tritons had in their previous two matches — while also leading his team in digs with seven.

    “”Eric’s probably the most athletic guy on our team. He just does an amazing job of getting to the ball,”” Waller said. “”He makes it easy for me. There were so many times where I knew their block just had no chance.””

    Toren, who posted a career-high in kills, also applauded his new setter for the personal and team success, but also wondered whether OSU’s overconfidence may have come into play.

    “”In the past couple days, I’ve really been clicking with Eric,”” Toren said. “”I know Ohio State probably came in here underestimating us looking at our record, but our energy level just boosted us way up. Energy and intensity will only take you so far, but then your skill has to take over, and that’s what we did.””

    While Jan. 18’s contest could be called an upset, the match on Jan. 19 could be called nothing but domination. While the Buckeyes played the Tritons tough in the first game, a 30-28 win for UCSD deflated their sails. UCSD used the 18 kills for Waller and 17 by T.J. Young to take the next two games easily — 30-23 and 30-15 — for the sweep.

    Toren had nine digs while libero Chris Mortimer had eight. UCSD outblocked OSU 9.5 to 4.5, led by Brian Foott, who had five block assists and asserted the Tritons’ West Coast dominance.

    Coach Larsen said he felt that his team was at an advantage playing against the best teams in the country each week in the MPSF, and suggested that the Buckeyes’ lack of quality competition left them underprepared for the Tritons.

    “”[The teams] are better out here,”” Larsen said. “”Every night we play, we play against top-15 teams.””

    Even after two impressive victories, the Tritons will once again need to find a way to compete with that elite competition as UCSD travels to take on UC Irvine and UCLA Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.

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