Men's Volleyball Falls to Top-Ranked Irvine, UCLA

    Although it had a chance to shock some of the top teams in the country, the UCSD men’s volleyball team couldn’t pull off any upsets as it lost another two matches to top-ranked UC Irvine and No. 8 UCLA.

    With their loss on April 1 in Los Angeles, the Tritons fell to 1-23 for the season and remained winless against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents in 18 attempts. The Bruins improved their winning streak to four and now stand at 16-12 overall, 8-10 MPSF.

    At the start of the match, the Tritons’ prospects looked promising, coming out firing to win the first game 30-28. The Tritons had even scoring throughout the game, with at least four kills by seven different players, including 11 by both senior outside hitter Jon Daze and senior opposite Chris Sayers. Daze tallied a double-double with his 10 digs, while sophomore libero Joe Sexton led the team with 12 digs.

    “We showed a lot of fight and it felt good to get the first-game win,” Daze said. “After that, our mentality is basically keep going. Winning the first game against a top team does one of two things: It either scares them or it angers them. After losing to us in game one, UCLA came out fired up and we couldn’t stop them the rest of the match.”

    After winning the first game, UCSD could not repeat its performance, losing the next three games 21-30, 21-30 and 25-30. The Tritons hit at a decent .353 clip in the first game, but hit poorly the rest of the match.

    Daze said he wished the Tritons could have at least forced a fifth game against the Bruins, like they did in their 2005 season finale.

    “I was just fighting,” Daze said. “I would have liked to beat UCLA as a senior, but we just couldn’t get it together and they executed well late in the game.”

    While losing the match, winning the first game against one of the top teams in Division-I volleyball shows the competitiveness of UCSD volleyball, despite its record.

    “[The first game] shows how hard our guys are continuing to work,” head coach Kevin Ring said. “Games like that prove that UCSD still competes on a very high level.”

    Senior outside hitter Damien Scott led the Bruins with 18 kills on .517 hitting. UCLA also had three other players reach double digits in kills, hitting at a .409 clip for the entire match.

    On March 30, UCSD took on the No. 1 team in the nation at Irvine, getting swept 23-30, 20-30 and 21-30. The Anteaters won their 16th game in a row by out-blocking, out-hitting and out-digging the Tritons. UCSD could not stop sophomore middle blocker Aaron Harrell, who had nine kills on amazing .818 hitting.

    Irvine led 12-19 in game one when UCSD went on a 7-2 run to close within two, but the score didn’t get any closer from there on as the Tritons lost 23-30. Game two had the same result, as the Anteaters ended an early 6-6 tie with a 5-0 run, capped by a Harrell kill. Irvine continued to roll until another kill by Harrell ended the second game 20-30. The Anteaters’ momentum carried them to an early 1-4 lead in game three and they never relinquished their advantage, winning the game 21-30 and the match 3-0.

    Sophomore middle blocker John Mark Wendler and Sayers paced the Tritons with eight kills apiece, but the team unit struggled, only hitting .167.

    UCSD will be back at home on April 5 against the top-ranked school in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, Cal Baptist.

    “Cal Baptist has foreign players that throw a different dynamic into the game,” Daze said. “They’re in a different league but we don’t treat them any different. They’re a good, solid team.”

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