Men’s Volleyball Falls Twice In Straight Sets to No. 1 Brigham Young

    Whether it was nerves or a lack of focus, the UCSD men’s volleyball team was just out-matched and out-played, losing back-to-back matches in straight sets to top-ranked Brigham Young University on Feb. 16 and 18 .

    On Feb. 18, the Tritons fell 27-30, 21-30, and 26-30, dropping to 1-12 for the season and 0-9 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, while the Cougars improved to 12-2 overall and 10-2 in MPSF play.

    “Playing the No. 1 team in the nation, you would think we would come out more fired up than ever, but there’s definitely a little intimidation,” senior outside hitter Jon Daze said. “We need to take it upon ourselves to not let that affect us.”

    Both teams struggled to maintain long runs due to the combined 43 service errors, 19 of which were committed by the Tritons.

    “One of our goals was to play better on the second night, improve more than they improved,” UCSD coach Kevin Ring said. “It’s not too often in our season [that we get] to play the same team back to back.”

    The Cougars couldn’t pull away in game one as the Tritons took the lead 21-20 on senior opposite Brenden Bowe’s kill, then again at 26-25 on another Bowe kill.

    Only four points away from winning the first game and sending a shock to the top-ranked Cougars, the Tritons could not find a way to score. BYU, on the other hand, had no trouble and came back from the one-point deficit to take a 26-27 lead. The Cougars did not look back and closed the game with a kill, 27-30.

    After coming so close to a win, Ring said that the Tritons’ problems at the end of game one were all mental.

    “We just have to remain disciplined and focus on each play and ball contact,” Ring said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We made all the plays early in the game so there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re able to make the same plays to close out the games.”

    In game two, the Tritons always played from behind, and were never able to catch up. After pulling to within two at 7-9, the Cougars extended the margin to 15-20. UCSD once again struggled to get on the board as BYU won the second game 21-30 on an error by the Tritons.

    UCSD had several chances to win game three, committing 17 errors but losing only by four points. The Cougars pulled ahead 21-28 before the Tritons cut the lead down to three at 26-29 on a kill by senior outside hitter Mike Reuter, his fifth of the match. But ultimately, BYU sophomore middle blocker Trent Sorensen put the match away with the final kill at 26-30.

    The close loss was a surprise considering the Tritons’ -.211 attack percentage in game three.

    “Despite the fact that we hit negative on game three, we were still kind of in the game,” Ring said. “We actually won many of the long rallies and it’s just a matter of cutting down on a few of our errors and keeping those balls in play.”

    On Feb. 16, it was the same story, different chapter for the two teams, with BYU sweeping UCSD 16-30, 23-30, 19-30.

    In game one, BYU did not commit a single error and as a team hit at a .760 clip to run away with a 16-30 victory in game one.

    Daze attributed the blowout to UCSD’s poor hitting.

    “Our hitting group was struggling a bit, our setters had a difficult night and our passers were hanging in there, but we need to get our middles going more,” Daze said.

    After falling behind in game two, UCSD could not pull any closer than six points, dropping game two 23-30.

    In the final game, UCSD used some of its younger players, such as freshman setter Adam Covington and freshman libero Eric Lesserman. Even with less experience on the court, the Tritons kept it close, trailing 12-15, but the Cougars started to pull away slowly to lead 19-27. Eventually, a Triton attack error would end the game 19-30.

    The Tritons will trek through their challenging schedule against ranked teams, hosting No. 7 UCLA on Feb. 24 and No. 3 UC Irvine on Feb. 25.

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