UCSD Gears Up for Grueling Weekend

    MEN’S VOLLEYBALL — After suffering back-to-back losses last
    weekend in Hawaii, the No. 15
    UCSD men’s volleyball team faces a full schedule this week with three matches
    in four days, and two coming up against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation
    foes.

    With an overall record of 3-5 and a 1-5 MPSF record, the
    Tritons are looking to rebound from their Hawaii
    trip and regain the form they displayed against UC Irvine just two weeks ago.

    Senior outside hitter Russ Hardy and the Tritons bounced back from two losses to Hawaii with an assertive victory over Princeton on Jan. 30, which improved UCSD’s record to 3-5. (Will Parson/Guardian File)

    “It feels good to be back at RIMAC,” sophomore outside
    hitter Jason Spangler said. “We’re playing well right now and we have positive
    thoughts heading into the weekend like we always do.

    UCSD will face No. 5 Pepperdine on Feb. 1 and No. 11 USC on
    Feb. 2. Last year the Waves captured both matches against UCSD, while the
    Trojans and the Tritons split their respective matches.

    Spangler said that there is no reason that UCSD can’t
    contend with those schools this year.

    “Pepperdine and USC are strong teams and if we play like we
    did against Irvine we can come away
    with a pair of wins,” he said.

    Pepperdine suffered two losses last week to No. 4 UCLA and
    No. 9 UC Irvine. Junior outside hitter Paul Carroll leads the Waves with 6.71
    kills per game, with help from senior setter Jonathan Winder, the 2007 AVCA and
    MPSF Player of the Year. Pepperdine is coming off a final four appearance at
    the NCAA Division I Finals last year, in a season it set the all-time wins mark
    in the MPSF.

    Head coach Kevin Ring said that Pepperdine is strong but
    that UCSD will come prepared.

    “[Pepperdine] is one of the top teams in the country despite
    two losses last weekend,” Ring said. “They’ve got some strong hitters but they
    also have tendencies. It’s our job to learn and take advantage of what we
    know.”

    USC will roll in one day later to try and take advantage of
    the Tritons’ tired legs, but the team is doing its best to prepare for the
    challenge.

    “Our five-game match against Hawaii
    was tiring and if we go to five games against Pepperdine, we’ll be tired on
    Saturday,” Spangler said. “We do a lot of conditioning during practice to
    prepare us for three matches in row and we have guys that can come in off the
    bench if we need them.”

    Ring echoed Spangler’s comments and mentioned that some of
    the players had been downed by injuries or sickness.

    “It’s been a tough week returning from Hawaii
    with the time change,” he said. “It’s not a lot of recovery time and we have
    things we need to work on. We’ve just got to push all that other stuff away and
    come to the court ready to play.”

    USC had mixed results last weekend when it beat rival No. 4
    UCLA but lost to No. 9 UC Irvine. The Trojans are led by senior setter and
    co-captain James Killian who is a four-year starter for the team.

    “I haven’t watched tape on [USC] yet,” Ring said. “They’re a
    really deep team with some strong freshmen playing with them. The question we
    need to answer is if we can play with a lead and pull out of a game and go from
    there.”

    Still on the mind of the young Triton squad was last year’s
    upset of a the then-No. 14 Trojans. UCSD knows what it feels like to conquer
    such a strong team and Spangler said that the team is looking for a repeat.

    On Jan. 30 the Tritons tried to fine tune their game with a
    non-conference match against Princeton before heading
    into the big weekend. UCSD had won the last nine match-ups between the two
    teams, and not much changed as the Tritons tamed the Tigers 32-30, 24-30,
    30-22, 30-27.

    Although the Tritons looked fluid in game one, they
    struggled a bit in game two. However, Princeton’s five
    returning starters couldn’t lead the Tigers and UCSD came together in the final
    two games of the match.

    “[Princeton] had a lot of serving and
    hitting errors compared to only 11 for us,” Spangler said. “They didn’t’ stop
    fighting all four games and they got us in that second game. But we just kept
    battling and it went well.”

    Spangler led the Tritons in the match with 23 kills, while
    sophomore opposite Frank Fritsch contributed 17 kills of his own. Sophomore
    middle blocker Gerald Houseman added 4 aces to round out the effort.

    Last week, the Tritons suffered back-to-back losses to Hawaii
    in Honolulu in front of crowds
    exceeding 2,500. UCSD came close in both matches, falling 25-30, 30-27, 25-30,
    27-30 Jan. 23 and 25-30, 24-30, 30-28, 30-27, 7-15 Jan. 25.

    Down by five in game one of the first match, Hawaii
    scored 16 of the next 22 to steal the game. After capturing game two, the
    Tritons suffered the fate that has followed them all season — they had late
    game leads but were unable to get the runs when they needed.

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