Men’s volleyball falls to Pepperdine, USC

Following two straight losses, the UCSD men’s volleyball team is off to its worst start in recent memory and is set to play three straight games on the road in the next eight days. Last week, the winless Tritons (0-7 overall, 0-6 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) fell to No. 4 Pepperdine and the unranked USC Trojans.

In Malibu, Calif., on Jan. 28, UCSD lost in straight sets to the second-best team in the nation, Pepperdine, 30-26, 30-23, 30-23. In the first game, the Tritons were outhit by their opponents, .310-.275. That was the closest they came to keeping up with the Waves (5-1 overall, 5-1 MPSF). As UCSD dropped from a .275 attack percentage in the first game to .126 in the second and subsequently to a dismal .095, the Waves wavered slightly between the first and second games, dropping from .310 to .272, but improved in the final game to a spectacular .438 attack percentage. For the last game, the Tritons were outhit .336 – .168.

Senior outside hitter Luke Honnette led his team in the loss, this time with 14 kills and three digs, while upholding a .281 attack percentage. Senior libero Dickens Tai, senior outside hitter Adam Toren, freshman middle blocker John Mark Wendler and sophomore setter Brooks Dierdorff also had good games, especially Toren, who in his first full game back from injury had 20 attacks, including eight kills, six digs and an ace. Tai had 11 digs, Wendler had six kills and two block assists, while Dierdorff notched 36 assists.

The disappointing showing came only two days after another straight-set loss, to USC. The Tritons, winners of only three sets on the season, two against UC Santa Barbara and one against the University of the Pacific, have lost five games in straight sets so far this year.

The game against the Trojans (2-6 overall, 1-4 MPSF) was another statistical blowout, as USC outhit the Tritons in every game. In the first, UCSD recorded a .139 percentage versus the Trojans’ .444. Despite an improvement to a respectable .286 attack percentage, USC still managed to outhit UCSD with a .432 mark. The final game was both teams’ worst games, with the Trojans falling to a .308 stat and the Tritons diving to an abysmal .065. For the match, USC outhit UCSD .400-.148. Just like the match against Pepperdine, the Tritons managed their lowest percentage in the final game; UCSD has yet to show its fans that it can be a clutch team or mount a comeback.

In addition to being outhit, the Tritons notched four blocks compared to USC’s 8.5, and tallied 17 digs versus the Trojans’ 22.

Honnette led the Tritons again, tallying 12 kills with a .350 attack percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Mike Reuter snagged eight kills while senior setter Nate Jones (20 assists) and Dierdorff (14 assists) split the playing time.

UCSD will play three road games this week, against No. 1 Long Beach, No. 10 UC Irvine and No. 2 UCLA.

The Tritons will play the 49ers on Feb. 4, the Anteaters on Feb. 9 and the Bruins on Feb. 11. Last year, the Tritons lost two games each to the Bruins and the 49ers, but managed a spectacular five-game upset in one of their two games to the then-No. 9 Anteaters.