UCSD Upsets No. 2 Coyotes

Just when it seems the UCSD women’s volleyball team has all
its parts functioning as a unit, it hits a bump. Rather than falling apart,
however, the 2007 Tritons always seem to rally, and this weekend’s upset of No.
2 Cal State San Bernardino was the perfect example.

Senior outside hitter Casey Wilson uses her 5-foot-10-inch frame to tower over Cal State Stanislaus defenders stretching to block her kill attempt in UCSD’s win over the Warriors on Oct. 19. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

Heading into arguably its toughest three-game stretch, UCSD
downed No. 19 Chico State at home on Oct. 20 in a powerful sweep. Hoping to
ride the high from that victory, the Tritons packed their bags and headed on
the road into hostile territory Oct. 27 at Cal Poly Pomona and Oct. 28 at No. 2
Cal State San Bernardino. Two more wins, and the Tritons would solidify
themselves as title contenders.

However, the Tritons suffered a heartbreaking five-game loss
to Cal Poly Pomona. They were able to rebound with a five-game comeback win
against Cal State San Bernardino. The topsy-turvy results have left the team in
a state of wonder, and at 10-5 in the California Collegiate Athletic Conference
and 16-7 overall, the players are ignoring talk of inconsistency.

“You have to take the season in halves,” head coach Tom
Black said. “Experience is experience and we were trying to find our line up
during the first half. Sure the Pomona loss was disappointing, but you can’t
say we’re inconsistent. We had a lead in the fifth and let it slip away. We’ve
played really well the last seven games and these girls are a special team.”

Junior outside hitter Rebecca Bailey led the No. 20 Tritons with 19 kills, but it took an all-around team effort for UCSD to pull off a five-game upset of No. 2 Cal State San Bernardino on Oct. 27. (Sanh Luong/Guardian)

The Tritons had their chances in the 30-28, 30-32, 30-21,
18-30, 15-13 loss to Cal Poly Pomona, posting leads in games one and five, but
were unable to finish in both cases.

UCSD led 25-22 in game one but allowed the Broncos to go on
a six-point run to give them a 28-26 advantage. Cal Poly Pomona completed the
comeback in game one on a Triton error.

Again with the late advantage in game two at 25-21, the
Tritons opened the door for the Broncos, who walked in and tied the game at 26.
UCSD scored three straight to regain the lead but the Broncos staved off the
loss with four straight points to give themselves a game point 30-29. But the
Tritons didn’t give up the comeback this time as junior outside hitter Rebecca
Bailey tied the game with a kill, and kills by senior outside hitter Casey
Wilson and senior opposite Amber Ries finished a nerve-racking game two win for
UCSD.

According to Black, the Broncos’ enthusiastic fans rattled
the Tritons, but UCSD was able to tune out the distractions.

“I think the crowd got us in the first game,” Black said.
“We leveled out after that and it was a battle.”

Games three and four were less-than-stellar performances by
both teams in their respective losses. Cal Poly Pomona dominated game three
leading by as many as 11 points before claiming the win. UCSD bounced back in
game four leading 20-12 and cruising to the win, forcing that decisive game
five.

With their adrenaline pumping, the Tritons kept their
emotions in check and stormed out to a 13-10 lead in game five. But two points
away from the victory, Cal Poly Pomona ended the match and the comeback with a
five-point run that left the Tritons in shock.

“We made some errors on our side of the court,” Bailey said.
“Having a three-, four- or five-point lead can go quickly in a fifth game. We
didn’t blow them off, but we didn’t take them as seriously as we should have.”

After taking such a draining defeat the night before, UCSD
muscled the courage to head into conference-unbeaten Cal State San Bernardino
and pull of an improbable comeback win: 23-30, 13-30, 30-25, 30-27, 15-12.

The Tritons started off slow in games one and two, looking
like a team that had just played a tiring five-game match the night before. The
Coyotes jumped ahead early and often, never allowing UCSD take the lead in
either of the first two games.

“We made a lot of unforced errors on our side,” sophomore
outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt said. “Natalie [Facchini] had a serving run that
really put us in a good position. We were embarrassed those first two games but
we came back out with pride and started executing.”

UCSD finally gained its first lead of the match in game
three at 17-15, and the lead stretched to 27-20 after aggressive serving by
junior defensive specialist Michelle Torres. Cal State San Bernardino fought
back with a five-point run, but sophomore middle blocker Sylvia Schmidt ended
the game with a pair of kills.

With momentum shifting in favor of the Tritons, the Coyotes
battled back to an early 10-4 advantage in game four. The lead carried to 25-20
before UCSD took control. Following a Coyote error, UCSD recorded a pair of
blocks and kills to take a 28-27 lead. Coming out of a Cal State San Bernardino
timeout, UCSD scored a triple block, supplemented by another Schmidt kill, to
give the Tritons the game.

The Tritons fell behind early again in game five but grew
stronger after back-to-back kills by Schmidt and Bailey. Up 8-6, Torres served
up an ace and Schmidt tallied a block and a kill, and the teams exchanged
points to push the score to 14-12. Schmidt once again rose to the occasion and finished
off the Coyotes with an emphatic kill to seal the Tritons’ victory.

UCSD’s win may have seemed unlikely on the heels of the
preceding night’s disappointing loss, but the Tritons rallied and played
together to get back on track.

“I don’t know if all the girls came in thinking they could
win,” Black said. “But we had a gut check after game two and we all got on the
same page. [Cal State San Bernardino] is as good as any team in the country and
I’m proud of the girls for how they responded.”

Schmidt came up huge for the Tritons in pressure situations
at the end of games and finished with 16 kills. Bailey led the team with 19 and
Ries added 13.

Next up for UCSD is a road match against Humboldt State
on Nov. 2.

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