Men’s volleyball woes continue

    The No. 14 UCSD men’s volleyball team finished the first half of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedule with much less than a bang. Consecutive 3-0 losses at No. 7 UCSB (30-21, 30-28, 30-17) and No. 6 Cal State Northridge (30-28, 30-25, 30-23) was more like a thud, and left the Tritons (6-11 overall, 2-9 in conference) in a tough position upon which to make a playoff bid.

    Lori Drahota
    Guardian file

    On Feb. 26 in Santa Barbara, Caif., UCSD ran into an opponent too hot to stop. The Gauchos committed just seven attack errors on the evening with 48 kills for a .526 attacking percentage, compared to .280 for the Tritons. UCSB also had a 25-15 advantage in digs, had seven service aces to UCSD’s four, and out-blocked the Tritons 12-3.

    UCSD made its only serious run at the Gauchos in game two, but came up just short. UCSB’s tandem of outside hitters, Evan Hoburg Patak and Nate Wack had 13 and 12 kills, respectively, and kept the Gauchos going. Wack had a most impressive night with his 12 kills coming on just 14 swings.

    For the Tritons, freshman setter Brooks Dierdorff got the majority of the playing time and responded with 31 assists. Junior outside hitter Adam Toren had 15 kills to lead all players and senior opposite Jim Waller added 12. Waller also added three service aces.

    Heading back into action quickly, UCSD headed to Cal State Northridge to take on the Matadors. After Cal State Northridge jumped out to an 8-3 lead early in game one, it appeared the Tritons were in for more of the same thing that they faced in Santa Barbara. However, UCSD stormed back and knotted the game at 22-22 before the teams traded points to push the score to 26-26. The inability to close out games, which has been an issue for the Tritons, was once again present, and the Matadors went on a 4-2 run to grab game one, 30-28.

    In game two, the score was tied as late as 17-17 before Cal State Northridge went on a 9-5 run to open up the margin it would need to take the 30-25 victory.

    Game three saw more of the same as this time UCSD managed to keep things tied until 16-16 but surrendered a 5-0 run that proved to give the Matadors all they needed to close the match, 30-23.

    “I still believe we’re the best team in the country up to 20 points,” senior middle blocker Kevin Keyser said. “After that, we’re the worst.”

    The Tritons hit just .169 for the match and were lead by Dierdorff’s 33 assists and Waller’s 10 kills. UCSD did manage to win the battle at the net with an 11-8.5 advantage in the blocking department, led by Keyser who had six block assists.

    The Tritons have now completed the first half of the MPSF season, and with two wins have already equaled UCSD’s best conference-win total for a season, but appear to be on the outside of the playoff picture. The top eight of the 12 teams in the conference advance to the playoffs.

    Originally, the Tritons figured they would need nine wins to grab the eighth spot in the conference, but given first-half results it appears that threshold could drop as low as seven victories. Despite those calculations, UCSD insists it will remain focused on the short-term goals.

    “I think things are going to come together because no team has ever gotten three [conference wins],” Keyser said. “We’ve got to worry about that third one first.”

    The Tritons will get their next shot at a third win at home versus the University of Southern California on March 4 to open a four-match home stand that includes Pepperdine on March 6. First serve for both of those matches is 7 p.m. at RIMAC Arena. UCSD will conclude the home stand with matches against UCLA and UC Irvine on March 10 and March 12, respectively.

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