Win Streak Lifts UCSD into Second

It seems that the UCSD women’s volleyball team has finally
found its groove. After struggling to achieve any kind of consistent play
through the first half of the season, the Tritons are at last playing nearly at
their peak.

Senior outside hitter Casey Wilson helped the Tritons to two straight set wins, totaling 16 kills, 14 digs and three aces in UCSD wins over Cal State Stanislaus and Chico State on Oct. 19 and Oct. 20, respectively. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

Guided by resilient defense and a powerful offense, the No.
20 Tritons swept their two weekend matches, dominating Cal State Stanislaus
30-24, 30-26, 30-25 on Oct. 19 followed by a stellar performance the next day
with a 30-25, 31-29, 30-27 win over No. 19 Chico State. With the victories,
UCSD boosted its record to 15-6 overall — and more importantly, took over a
share of second place in the California Collegiate Athletic Association with a
league record of 9-4.

Head coach Tom Black said that he feels that the players
haven’t quite reached their highest level but are progressing.

“We’re on our way to reaching our peak and last night was a
big step,” he said. “Hopefully we reach that peak in the final games of
conference play and into playoffs.”

On a busy athletics night at UCSD on Oct. 19, the Tritons
didn’t disappoint the loyal fans that came to watch their thrashing of Cal
State Stanislaus. The Warriors would take the first advantage in game one as
UCSD got off to a slow start. Down by one, the Tritons went on a six-point run
to take a 25-19 lead and eventually took the game.

Fired up after squeaking out game one, the Tritons blazed to
a 6-1 lead early and then stretched the margin to nine at 20-11. The Warriors
didn’t have an answer for the robust Triton offense on the night, as UCSD was
relentless and put down 14 kills in the game to take the win.

Down early in game three, senior opposite Amber Ries powered
the Tritons to a 12-7 lead on a monster smash over a Warrior block. UCSD
stretched the lead to nine on a pair of kills by junior outside hitter
Kimberley Carpenter. Cal State Stanislaus made things interesting in the later
stages, closing the gap to 26-23. But the team couldn’t pull off the comeback
and the Tritons finished off the Warriors 30-25.

Despite the victory, Black was frustrated with the team’s
slow start.

“I think we came out a little sluggish,” Black said. “We
know we can’t do that and really need to improve there.”

Oct. 20 was a different tale. Unlike Cal State Stanislaus,
who hasn’t beaten UCSD since 2002, the Wildcats from Chico downed the Tritons
in the opening weeks of conference play. With revenge in mind, UCSD played
consistent and tough volleyball in a well-contested match.

The Tritons cruised in game one by opening a 17-11 lead in
front of 979 rowdy fans. They wouldn’t be tested the rest of the game, taking
the win on an explosive Bailey kill.

In game two, Chico State rebounded, speeding out to a 16-9
advantage. The Tritons regained form after the disappointing start, slowly
closing the gap. UCSD took advantage of each service opportunity while down,
going on several small runs that helped tie up the match at 23-23.

Black said he enjoyed seeing his squad dig itself out of a
hole and catch up to the Wildcats.

“The comeback was really fun to watch,” Black said. “We called
the timeout and knew all we had to do was get on some service runs and that’s
exactly what we did. It was really impressive.”

The Wildcats showed the maturity of a battle-tested team,
edging out a 29-28 lead. However, Bailey denied Chico State’s game point with a
kill, and sophomore middle blocker Sylvia Schmidt added an ace to take a 30-29
advantage. Junior middle blocker Hannah Gary then threw down the final point
for UCSD.

According to Bailey, Gary’s joust to finish game two capped
a spectacular team effort that was heightened by the swarming Triton Tide.

“We’ve really been focusing on the task at hand and playing
for the next point,” Bailey said. “We just chipped away and chipped away and
did it well last night. But we couldn’t have done it without that crowd. They
really gave us energy.”

Junior defensive specialist Michelle Torres picked apart the
Wildcats from the service line in game three, and her presence at the game was
a pleasant surprise according to Black.

“Michelle had some bad milk earlier and was sick,” he said.
“She drove in a half hour before the game and warmed up and played spectacular.
It was a really gutsy performance.”

Up 15-10 after a Schmidt kill, Torres continued to put
pressure on Chico State with aggressive serving, extending the lead to
18-10.

The Wildcats continued to play tough, but it just wasn’t
enough on a night where UCSD totaled 46 kills and nine aces as a team.

“It was probably one of the best nights of my career,”
Bailey said. “We came together and played together and were extremely loud on
the sidelines. Everyone wanted it and the big win is a booster heading into
next week.”

The Tritons hope to extend their five-game winning streak
against Cal Poly Pomona and No. 2 Cal State San Bernardino on Oct. 26 and Oct.
27, respectively.

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