Tritons Bump Win Streak to 10

    Often times matchups between two top-notch programs fall short of expectations and are uncharacteristically one-sided, but the Oct. 21 match between No. 3 Cal State San Bernardino and No. 12 UCSD did not fail to deliver an impressive performance — a five-game marathon that lasted just over two-and-a-half hours.

    arash keshmirian/Guardian
    Senior outside hitter Nicole Courtney led the Tritons in their victory over Cal State San Bernardino at UCSD on Oct. 21, ending the third-ranked Coyotes’ undefeated season.

    “We’ve been training really hard ever since the end of last year, so we weren’t worried about going five games,” senior middle blocker Brianna Koche said. “We were fitter and you could see that they got tired.”

    The Coyotes were trying to preserve a flawless record while the Tritons were attempting to move up the rankings and establish themselves as a premier squad.

    “They’re the best team in the region and it’s good to know you can win at that level,” head coach Tom Black said. “We’ve said the entire year that if we execute, we can win, and the ladies really believe in that right now.”

    A reported 1,009 cheering fans witnessed UCSD’s defeat over Cal State San Bernardino 30-19, 23-30, 29-31, 30-25, 15-11 and contributed added motivation to the Triton players.

    “[The fans] were awesome,” Koche said. “Right as the match was about to start, about 10 guys with their chests painted came in chanting ‘UCSD’ and it really got us pumped up. It’s more exciting to play in front of a crowd like that.”

    RIMAC Arena buzzed with anticipation of the upset as the first serve was hit and play got underway. UCSD took the lead early, 8-3, on junior libero Natalie Facchini’s back-to-back aces.

    The advantage was stretched to 23-10 after a Coyote attacking error. Koche’s kill sent the fans into a craze as UCSD took the first game 30-19.

    In game two, Cal State San Bernardino bounced right back. The Tritons kept it tight early on, but the Coyotes were able to pull away after taking the lead 9-8. Cal State San Bernardino went on a 16-7 run from there to take command and eventually won the game 23-30.

    The Tritons fell behind 5-8 in game three before tying it 10-10 on a Coyote attack error. Neither team could take control, exchanging points without a clear lead on either side.

    With the score tied 28-28, the crowd erupted as freshman middle blocker Sylvia Schmidt got a block to put UCSD up 29-28, giving the Tritons an opportunity to serve out the third game.

    Cal State San Bernardino showed why it is the third-ranked team in the country as it battled back, scoring the next three points, causing the Tritons fall to 29-31 and quieting the UCSD crowd.

    “None of us were nervous and we knew we had to win [the fourth game],” Koche said. “We knew if it went five we would win because we were more fit.”

    In the crucial must-win game four for the Tritons, they came out firing, taking a quick 3-1 lead, only to see it evaporate a moment later. The teams traded points for the second straight game, but this time UCSD was able to pull away.

    With the score tied 23-23, the Tritons went on to close out the game 30-25. Junior outside hitter Rebecca Bailey tallied the final three points with kills.

    In the decisive fifth game, the UCSD fans’ voices began to rise again. Cal State San Bernardino exploded to a 9-5 start, silencing the anxious crowd and forcing Black to call a timeout.

    “I try to take each play as it comes,” Black said. “If a game goes well or if a game goes badly it comes back to pass, set, hit. I told the girls to focus and serve to the right person and we will win.”

    Bailey then recorded three blocks in a row, tying the game at 9-9. After kills by Koche and Bailey, the Coyotes called a timeout, down 11-10.

    Cal State San Bernardino responded, getting a kill out of the timeout and once again tying the game. The Tritons regained the lead on a Bailey kill, 12-11. Senior setter Kristen Halvorsen then put up two tough serves resulting in a ball-handling error and an ace, solidifying the UCSD lead 14-11.

    After a Coyote attacking error, the students flooded the court, surrounding their victorious women’s volleyball team.

    “It’s always fun to have the students rush the court,” Koche said. “We have to be good sports and slap [Cal State San Bernardino’s] hands, but it was really exciting.”

    Senior outside hitter Nicole Courtney led the Triton squad with 13 kills and 29 digs. Bailey and Koche added 13 kills apiece.

    “This team has an unbelievable amount of character,” Black said. “After those first couple of losses earlier in the season, the team has really responded with the wins at Chico [State], [Cal State Los Angeles] and now last night’s match against an undefeated team. There’s no quit in these girls and they never stop fighting. It’s gratifying to watch.”

    Often times, the game before such a big match can prove to be problematic because the focus is on the upcoming game. However, UCSD took care of business on Oct. 20 by defeating Cal Poly Pomona 30-20, 30-28, 28-30, 30-21.

    Courtney recorded a near triple-double with 12 kills, 14 digs and nine aces.

    “Nicole’s a great player; when she’s on her game, she’ll play well against anyone,” Black said. “She’s worked hard to get to the level she’s at and tonight was just what it looks like when she’s executing.”

    The Tritons jumped out to a 7-0 lead in game one on four aces by Courtney. Cal Poly Pomona never got closer than eight as UCSD cruised to a 30-20 win.

    Game two proved to be a bit more difficult as Cal Poly Pomona often took a nine-point lead in the match. Sophomore outside hitter Michelle Torres then led a furious comeback as UCSD scored six straight points to pull within three at 23-20.

    The Tritons then tied the match 24-24 and Bailey sent down the final two kills, giving UCSD the comeback win 30-28.

    In game three, UCSD opened a 27-23 lead before Cal Poly Pomona made a comeback of its own, tying the game 28-28. Two Triton attacking errors later, Cal Poly Pomona forced a fourth game, winning the third 28-30.

    “We knew were going to win, but it was just one more game than we would’ve liked,” Koche said.

    The Tritons got back on track in the fourth game as they built a 14-7 advantage. The lead stretched to 22-10 before Cal Poly Pomona was able to cut the it back to 23-16. It was the last ray of hope as UCSD closed out the match on sophomore middle blocker Hannah Gary’s kill.

    The women only have four games left in the regular season before playoffs begin. The team is back in action Oct. 25 at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

    “It’s really important to train with the end in mind,” Black said. “Of course we need to focus on the moment and the next game, but we still need to see the bigger picture. There has to be a sense of urgency and the team does a great job of that.”

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