No.1 women's volleyball upset by HPU

    The stage was set perfectly for a third meeting between top-seeded UCSD and conference rival Cal State San Bernardino in the West Region final for a berth into the national quarterfinals. There was just one problem: Hawaii Pacific University had other plans.

    Carina Weber

    The fifth-seeded Sea Warriors of Hawaii Pacific upset the favored Tritons in a thrilling five-game match (29-31, 30-24, 31-29, 23-30 and 18-16) in the regional semifinal. The loss dashed UCSD’s championship hopes.

    Hawaii Pacific defeated fourth-seeded Cal State Bakersfield, 3-2, to reach the semi-finals. Occupying a place that could have belonged to the Tritons in the regional final, the Sea Warriors were no match for the Coyotes of Cal State San Bernardino who won 3-0 (30-28, 30-21, 30-22) and will represent the West Region in the Elite Eight. The Coyotes defeated a spunky Seattle University squad, 3-1, in the first round and second-seeded Western Washington, 3-1, to reach the finals.

    At the outset, it appeared that the Tritons could not be deterred from their goal to advance as match-opening solo blocks by opposite Lindsay Crandell and middle blocker Kendra Canape gave UCSD the early lead and energized the crowd of 826.

    The Tritons continued to push through the first game, and held a four-point lead as late as 27-23 with the offense paced by middle blocker Katie Hogan’s five kills. Hawaii Pacific stormed back to tie the score at 27, and the teams traded points up to 29. Canape and Wilson put down back-to-back kills to give UCSD the game.

    It looked as if the Tritons might cruise to victory, but the Sea Warriors played at a whole new level in the second game, racking up 20 kills with just three errors en route to a 30-24 win. UCSD head coach Duncan McFarland gave the credit to Hawaii Pacific for the turnaround.

    “”I think any good team can do that, and once again they knew if they wanted to have a shot, they had to play better,”” he said. “”Good teams are capable of turning things around.””

    The Triton block cooled the Sea Warrior attack in game three, with UCSD tallying five of its 14 blocks overall. Canape ‹ who served as an emotional sparkplug for the team ‹ was part of each of the five blocks, but in the end the Tritons could not overcome their poor .140 attack percentage in the game. They fell to Hawaii Pacific, 31-29.

    Though Canape’s exuberant play and high level of intensity went unquestioned, the UCSD team as a whole seemed to lack some of the high energy and focus that a playoff match deserves. McFarland attributed the lack of focus and energy to disturbing events leading up to the match.

    “”I think there were definitely some people who had nerves tonight who knew what a big match it was,”” McFarland said. “”The fact that Lindsay [Crandell] dislocated her finger and fractured it a few days ago, that was kind of unsettling for the whole team … we had a couple things like that that put us on edge a little bit.””

    With their backs against the wall in the fourth game, the Tritons’ nerves dissipated and UCSD played the dominant volleyball that earned it the No. 1 national ranking and an undefeated 11-0 record at home in regular season.

    The Tritons played inspired defense led by libero Lauren Mills, who accumulated 29 digs in her final collegiate match. UCSD’s offense clicked as well, with 20 kills to only five errors in the game.

    Momentum was squarely on the Tritons’ side heading into the decisive game five. As if to prove just that fact, Wilson ran off an early six-point string on her serve to give UCSD a 6-1 advantage, and what appeared to be an insurmountable lead. The Sea Warriors, however, were determined not to go down so easily.

    “”They just kind of dug in their heels and they knew that they had to make a move at that point if they wanted to have a chance at winning the match, and you know Š it happens in volleyball,”” McFarland said.

    With a 7-1 run, Hawaii Pacific stormed into the lead and set up a dramatic finish. Points were traded with several long rallies heightening the tension. UCSD had the first match point at 15-14, but the Sea Warriors came back to level the score.

    With the count at 15 points apiece, Sea Warrior assistant coach Damien Hardy mouthed the words, “”We’ve got this”” to the fans across the area. Moments later his prediction was confirmed. The Tritons survived one match point at 16-15 when Hawaii Pacific’s Barbara Martin seemed to have a block, but the referee ruled that she had touched the net.

    The Sea Warriors took care of their next opportunity though, and Nadica Karleusa’s 15th kill of the match ended the Tritons’ season, and the game, 18-16.

    After a very competitive regional, there was nothing left to do except think about what could have been.

    “”It’s just kind of unfortunate that our region is just so darn strong and that we only get to send one team to the elite eight,”” McFarland said. “”It’s too bad because I think [UCSD] is no question, one of the top eight teams in the country.””

    With a large and talented class of players who will be seniors next season for the Tritons, the next nine months will provide plenty of time to prepare for the year ahead and another shot at the elusive national title.

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