Volleyball gains more momentum

    These days, it seems like nothing can stop the second-ranked UCSD women’s volleyball team. Opposing teams have simply been unable to surpass the Tritons in any category except, perhaps, errors. Even when Sonoma State head coach Ed Grassl interrupted the Oct. 7 match several times, complaining to the referees about the taunts the UCSD fans were aiming at the Seawolves, it did not stop the Tritons’ rhythm. UCSD swept Sonoma State at RIMAC Arena (30-17, 30-16, 30-22) and also swept California Collegiate Athletic Association newcomer Cal State Monterey Bay (30-17, 30-15, 30-18) the following night on Oct. 8.

    “[Grassl] was complaining about our fans and that makes us upset because we appreciate our fans so much,” senior setter Teresa Ohta said. “We don’t want them to be told by the other coach that they can’t cheer for us. Heckling is a part of sports, a part of athletics; it’s just what happens. I think it fired us up even a little bit more.”

    The Tritons refused to let Sonoma State come close to winning the match, attacking, serving and defending solidly throughout the match. Ohta guided the Triton offense by distributing 38 assists, 20 more than her Sonoma State counterpart, Tina Mesquita. Freshman Natalie Facchini continued to assert her role as a staple on the Tritons’ defense, contributing a match-high 18 digs. Senior middle blocker Katie Hogan led the team with 15 kills and committed only one error for a high .636 attack percentage, followed by junior outside hitter Lindsay Crandell, who registered 10 kills and eight digs. Senior outside hitter Bonnie Wilson and senior middle blocker Kendra Canape had seven kills apiece, and Wilson also added eight digs for the match.

    The only roadblock for the Tritons was their slow start in game one, trailing 4-0, but Canape led the comeback with three kills accompanied by an attacking error by the Seawolves, which quickly tied them up at 4-4. The teams reamined deadlocked for the next several points, but after UCSD took an 11-10 lead, it never relinquished the advantage, finishing the Seawolves off, 30-17, in game one.

    “It took us a while to get into it, to get fired up,” Ohta said. “We did have kind of a long break since we last played; we had a week of practice with school and everything so we weren’t on top of our game. I’m just glad we picked it up, and I think we played a lot better in the second and third game.”

    On a roll, the Tritons continued their dominance, getting out to a 10-6 lead before Grassl began complaining about the home fans’ heckling. Play was halted for several moments, but it did not break UCSD’s concentration. The team held on to its lead to win game two, 30-16.

    “I think [Grassl] was so frustrated with his team at that point that he thought he had to try anything,” Triton head coach Duncan McFarland said. “He thought he would stall the game by bringing [the heckling] up and get the officials to do something about it. I think it had a bad effect on [Sonoma State]. They played worse after that.”

    Game three was not any better for the Seawolves, although they kept close to the Tritons, tying them up at 8-8. Sonoma State ran into Hogan, who exploited the Seawolves’ defense, bombarding them with nine kills with no errors. While Crandell also got her licks in, scoring seven of her 10 kills with no errors. UCSD completed its sweep, 30-22.

    “I was just really connecting better tonight,” Hogan said. “We had a pretty big crowd — I love that. It’s so much fun to play for them.”

    Indeed, the home crowd was an advantage for the Tritons, especially with the UCSD women’s softball team in attendance with banners to cheer on fellow athletes.

    “[The softball team] all had signs for all of our players,” Ohta said. “It’s really neat to see the other teams supporting [us], and I think it’s really good and it helps everybody.”

    UCSD next faced off against Cal State Monterey Bay on Oct. 8 at RIMAC Arena in the first-ever match between the two teams. Cal State Monterey Bay just entered the CCAA conference this season after being in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

    The Otters are at the bottom of the CCAA standings with a 2-15 overall record and 0-9 CCAA record. Cal State Monterey Bay will have to look elsewhere for its first conference win, because UCSD beat the team decisively in three games, outhitting the Otters .348 to .083. In game two, Cal State Monterey Bay had a .000 percentage compared to the Tritons’ .372.

    This time, senior outside hitter Stacy Dunsmore dominated the match offensively and defensively with 17 kills and 18 digs. The Otters did not come close to Dunsmore, with their top two players registering only five kills apiece in the losing effort. Ohta contributed 39 assists and nine digs while Canape also added six kills.

    The Tritons were also solid defensively, netting eight blocks and 52 digs while the Otters recorded three blocks and 38 digs.

    So far, UCSD has only lost one game or less in all its match victories, and 14 of its 19 wins were sweeps. Although winning has come relatively easy for the Tritons, they are cautious about becoming too complacent and are always looking to keep an edge to their game.

    “I think our team is so good that we should win a lot of matches fairly easily,” McFarland said. “[We] run the risk of just going out there and kind of going through the motions. It’s our best practice when we play matches. We need to keep improving and work on things that are difficult for us, so we are getting stronger as the season progresses.”

    To keep from getting too comfortable with winning, the players remind themselves not to look too far ahead and instead take it one game at a time.

    “We try to take each game as its own challenge,” Hogan said. “You never know what some of these teams are going to bring. We’re one of the best conferences. A lot of times, we’re considered the team to beat, and because of that we’re ready to take anyone on.”

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