Men's volleyball trounces No. 6 Stanford

    “”The first thing that coach said to us is that [the story is] going to be titled ŒUCSD upsets No. 6 Stanford,'”” Triton outside hitter, junior Adam Toren said after UCSD toppled the Cardinal 3-1 on Jan. 24. “”We didn’t go into it thinking that it was going to be us upsetting them. We knew we could play with them and that we’re just as good as they are.””

    Lori Drahota
    Guardian

    Regardless of how it is labeled, the win was huge for the UCSD men’s volleyball team, who rebounded from a disappointing 3-0 loss on Jan. 23 against No. 15 Pacific. UCSD improved its record to 3-2 overall, 2-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Stanford ‹ ranked sixth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II Poll ‹ is the highest-ranked opponent UCSD has ever defeated.

    The Pacific Tigers proved an elusive foe as the Tritons were plagued by missed opportunities in a home MPSF opener. UCSD jumped out to an early 15-8 lead against Pacific in game one, only to let the Tigers claw their way back into it. The Tritons relinquished the lead at 26-25, capping a 6-2 Pacific run. The Tigers were simply more efficient down the stretch, and after a struggle, they emerged with the 33-31 victory.

    Game two was a battle that featured 22 ties. UCSD was able to open the largest lead of the game at 23-19, but Pacific ran off four straight points to level the game. UCSD grabbed a 29-27 lead and had two game points to even it, but the Tigers fended the Tritons off. In the end it was back-to-back UCSD attack errors that gave Pacific game two with a 32-30 final score.

    Lori Drahota
    Guardian

    The third game featured much of the same, with UCSD getting the better of the action for long periods, but Pacific finding a way to stay in the game. At 26-26, the Tigers took a timeout and then returned to the court to show their finishing instinct. Pacific went on a 4-1 run to take the game 30-27, and the 3-0 sweep in the match.

    Nils Dauburs picked up a match-high 18 kills to lead the Tigers, while opposite Jim Waller and middle hitter Kevin Keyser shared team-high honors with 11 kills each for UCSD. Triton setter Nate Jones had 42 assists in the loss and outside hitter Jeff Urton led the team with 10 digs.

    UCSD head coach Ron Larsen was disappointed with his team’s inability to maintain a high level of execution throughout the match.

    “”I think the guys have a real hard time doing the things they need to do for a long period of time,”” he said. “”I think we have some real good tendencies on what a team is going to do and we’re telling them things they need to do. When they get tired they revert back to whatever they feel comfortable doing and that’s when we have to fight that.””

    When asked whether or not his team could take some positives away from the match, Larsen broke things down to wins and losses.

    “”You get to a point where you say, ŒWhen are you going to make the difference? When are you going to make the play? When are you going to do the things that you’ve trained yourself to do?'”” he said. “”I don’t think it’s a good loss. I just think it’s a loss.””

    Despite the tough defeat, the UCSD players remained optimistic that they were close to getting back on the winning track.

    “”I think we just need to have more communication all the time,”” Keyser said. “”I think we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve got great coaching. We’ve got great leadership. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to do. We’ve just got to fire up and get it done.””

    The next night against Stanford, the Tritons fired it up from the opening serve. UCSD came out with energy and battled the Cardinal early before building a 21-15 lead. Stanford rallied late, but the Tritons exorcised their demons from the previous match and closed the door on the Cardinal, 30-27.

    Game two started out tight, but midway through the game, Stanford sent a free ball over the net that was ruled out of bounds by the linesman, but then declared in by the down referee, giving the point to the Cardinal. The Tritons seemed somewhat deflated at that point and Stanford grabbed the opportunity to pounce and cruise to a 30-23 win.

    Game three was a turning point, as each team desperately tried to gain control. The game was tied at every point up until 12 when Stanford slowly started building a three-point lead that they nursed for the second half of the game. However, UCSD fought and rallied back to tie things at 28. The teams traded points, and each side had a game point, but neither could capitalize. At 30-all, the Cardinal had the chance to take control of the match until a solo block by UCSD’s Jones against Stanford’s sophomore outside hitter Ben Reddy ‹ who piled up a match-high 23 kills ‹ gave the Tritons the lead and another shot to close the match. Stanford turned away that attempt, but UCSD was not to be denied and took the game, 33-31, on a kill by Urton.

    Game four belonged to the Triton block as UCSD added four more to its team total of 17.5 blocks for the match, led by Keyser who had 10 total blocks.

    “”Having 17.5 [blocks] Š I don’t think we’ve ever seen a stat sheet with 17.5. Especially with Stanford only having five blocks, that’s incredible for us,”” Toren said.

    UCSD’s dominance at the net allowed the Tritons to cruise to a 30-22 victory and to claim victory over Stanford for the first time ever, which pleased Larsen.

    “”I’m from the Bay Area and I coached and taught at Cal for 13 years and I don’t like Stanford,”” he said. “”I always told my guys if you can give me two wins, give me Stanford and BYU and I’ll be happy.””

    Urton headlined a big statistical night for the Tritons with a team-high 16 kills and 10 digs to share the team high with libero Dickens Tai. Jones handed out 54 assists for a balanced UCSD attack in which all five of the Tritons’ starting hitters ended up with double-digit kill totals. UCSD out-hit Stanford .307 to .259, and committed nine fewer errors.

    The Tritons return to RIMAC Arena on Jan. 26 against Princeton before a difficult seven-game road trip. The Tritons feel they’ve gathered some good momentum.

    “”I think this year has been a coming-together story. Everything’s finally starting to click, we’re all starting to believe in each other, and I think, on the court, that’s huge,”” Tai said. “”We get all fired up and we start playing for each other.””

    As long as the Tritons keep playing together, it’s capable of upsetting anyone. Just don’t call it an upset.

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