Volleyball upset by Coyotes

    The No. 2 UCSD women’s volleyball team ran up against a red-hot Cal State San Bernadino squad that staged a comeback against the Tritons, dashing their national title hopes in a heartbreaking upset (30-27, 30-26, 29-31, 31-33, 15-17) on Nov. 20 in the NCAA Pacific Regional Finals at RIMAC Arena.

    Billy Wong

    “It hurts me to think about [the loss] because I can stay and coach and have another chance [at a title], but for the seniors, they don’t have that chance,” Triton head coach Duncan McFarland said. “And I think they deserve it because they earned it with 30 wins.”

    This defeat came the day after the Tritons avenged last year’s Pacific Regional loss to Hawaii Pacific. The painful memory remained with the Tritons, who refused to repeat history in their emotional, come-from-behind, five-set victory (19-30, 30-26, 23-30, 30-28, 15-11) against the Sea Warriors on Nov. 19 in the semifinals.

    Although UCSD had beaten Cal State San Bernardino twice during the regular season, the Tritons were unable to close out the crucial game three that would have clinched the match.

    The Tritons mounted late scoring runs in games one and two to secure wins at 30-27 and 30-24, respectively. However, in game three, the Coyotes refused to be swept and at 29-29, Cal State San Bernardino’s Brianna Harris came up with two points to save the game and extend her team’s playoff hopes, 31-29.

    Senior outside hitter Stacy Dunsmore notched a kill to give UCSD a chance to close out the match with a 30-29 edge in game four, but Cal State San Bernardino stepped up and came back again, winning 33-31 to force a fifth, tiebreaking set.

    Wanting desperately to stave off the Coyotes, the Tritons jumped to an early lead and junior outside hitter Lindsay Crandell gave the Tritons match point at 14-12. Undeterred, Cal State San Bernardino rallied to tie it at 14-14, and Crandell once again gave UCSD a 15-14 edge. The Tritons could not stop Harris, who nailed two kills to finish game five, 17-15, sending the Coyotes to the Elite Eight.

    “There were two big factors to the match,” McFarland said. “It was a tremendous match that San Bernardino played, much better than the matches they played before. Brianna Harris was unbelievable; she always played very well against us, and she just did significantly better. The other factor is that we expended so much physical and emotional effort the night before against Hawaii Pacific, and we were very willing to give 100 percent [against San Bernardino]. The team tried as hard as they could and got close to winning but just did not have much left.”

    Harris played the best match of her career, setting a school record with 45 kills to hit .320, while adding 15 digs defensively. Right behind her was the Coyotes’ Cathleen Price, who had 27 kills, 18 digs and 7 blocks against UCSD.

    For the Tritons, freshman libero Natalie Facchini also set a school record with 40 digs, while senior outside hitter Bonnie Wilson posted 22 kills, also setting a school record for most kills in a season, with 439. Senior middle blockers Katie Hogan and Kendra Canape posted 15 and 10 kills, respectively. Canape also had 10 blocks in the match. Dunsmore tallied 14 kills and 19 digs; her 14 kills shattered the UCSD all-time record for kills, placing her atop the list with 1,182 career kills. Crandell also tallied 10 kills and seven digs, while senior setter Teresa Ohta guided the Triton offense with 58 assists.

    In the Pacific Regional semifinals the night before, the Tritons overcame a 2-1 deficit to send Hawaii Pacific packing. The Sea Warriors had been a solid hitting and blocking team throughout the season, and the Tritons knew they would have to overcome Hawaii Pacific’s size. After the Sea Warriors won game one decisively, 30-19, the Tritons retaliated by taking game two, 30-26, with Canape and Crandell teaming up for the game-winning block. Game three saw the Sea Warriors running out to an early lead that they clung to for the 30-23 win.

    Refusing to let the match come to a close, UCSD deadlocked game four at 13-13. Both teams traded points to remain tied throughout the rest of the game, until the Tritons closed it out 30-28 on Canape’s kill to force the decisive game five. Game five belonged to UCSD, who battled to a 15-11 win clinched by Crandell, avenging last season’s loss to Hawaii Pacific.

    Five UCSD players recorded kills in double digits, with Wilson and Dunsmore posting double-doubles (kills and digs) to lead the way. Wilson had 18 kills and 16 digs while Dunsmore tallied 16 kills and 10 digs. Ohta paced the Tritons with 64 assists and added nine digs and four block assists. Facchini led both teams defensively with 23 digs while Crandell (15 kills), Canape (14 kills) and Hogan (11 kills) chipped in offensively.

    Unfortunately for the Tritons, the euphoria of the huge victory did not last very long.

    “After the win, I sent a quick message to the team that it was such a fabulous win and I was proud of them,” McFarland said. “But we had San Bernardino looming and we had to get ready. It was unfortunate that [Hawaii Pacific] was a win that we couldn’t savor.”

    UCSD faced Cal State Bakersfield in the first round of the Pacific Regionals and swept the Roadrunners, 33-31, 30-16, 30-24, on Nov. 18 at RIMAC Arena. Canape led the charge with 15 kills and only one error to hit .667, while Dunsmore had 13 kills, including eight in the tightly contested game one. Ohta distributed 40 assists while Wilson recorded double digits in kills (11) and digs (13). Once again, Facchini had a solid night, posting a match-high 16 digs.

    “I felt pretty good,” Dunsmore said. “We were all pretty fired up and came out with an extra spark in our eye because it was the Regional tournament and we’ve been waiting for this for a long time, so I think all of us were really excited and ready to play.”

    Although the Roadrunners were a much smaller team than the Tritons, they moved quickly and put pressure on UCSD in game one to set themselves up to clinch it at 29-28. However, Wilson put away a cross-court kill to tie it up at 29-29, and play remained tied at 31-31 until a Hogan tip and Dunsmore’s eighth kill gave the Tritons game one, 33-31.

    After UCSD made some blocking adjustments, it secured an early lead that Cal State Bakersfield could not break through. The Tritons outhit the Roadrunners .412 to .070 in game two.

    “I think I calmed down a little more in the second and third game,” said Canape, who posted five kills in game two. “I got a little fired up to start if off, my adrenaline just always rushing a lot. Like Stacy said before, I’ve been anxious all week. We’ve been waiting for playoffs since the beginning of the season … and it’s finally here today. It’s such a rush.”

    Game three saw UCSD settle into a huge 21-10 lead, but Cal State Bakersfield slowly climbed its way to trail 25-22. However, the Tritons continued to hit and block better, with Canape and Dunsmore putting forth clutch performances, combining to score the five points UCSD needed to win game three and the match, 30-24.

    “They’re a great team,” Roadrunner head coach John Price said of the Tritons. “We had to play great and put some pressure on them and we did that in game one. But once [the Tritons] got off the hook, they recovered and we couldn’t keep the pressure on them. Ohta’s great; she’s the best player in the country and she really kills us.”

    At the conclusion of the Regionals, Ohta, Wilson, Canape and Facchini were selected to the 12-player NCAA Pacific Regional All-Tournament T eam for their performance in the postseason.

    Although UCSD saw its national title hopes come to an early ending, McFarland was proud of his team’s overall efforts this season.

    “They’re the greatest, and I love them,” he said. “They’re a tremendous team, and the seniors have achieved so much in their four seasons. As freshmen, they made it to the Elite Eight and the semifinals … and they had so many significant wins [thereafter].”

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