Volleyball can’t find gold in Loss to 49ers

    Freshman setter Phil Bannan (center) has led the Tritons to a 1-8 record in the unforgiving Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, and the Tritons will look to improve against titan USC on Feb. 13.
    (Will Parson/Guardian File)

    MEN’S VOLLEYBALL — After an easy win over Hope
    International University

    on Feb. 6, UCSD only managed to win one game against No. 3 Long Beach State on
    Feb. 8. The crushing loss to the 49ers was just the beginning of another
    gauntlet against top squads that the Tritons must run. While the HIU Royals
    posed no competition for the Tritons on Feb. 6, the 49ers were another monster
    altogether. Head coach Kevin Ring expected a tough game, but nearly every
    Triton match against teams in the nationally recognized Mountain Pacific Sports
    Federation will prove tough.

    “We knew it was going
    to be a challenge against Long Beach State,”
    Ring said. “They’re undefeated and one of the best teams out there. I was
    really impressed with how hard we fought.”

    UCSD had a chance against the 49ers but was unable to
    capitalize in the early stages of the game. The two teams’ offenses were evenly
    matched, but the 49ers used their height advantage at the net to out block the
    Tritons. Long Beach State
    cruised in game one winning 30-22. The teams were close early, but the 49ers
    used a late service run to open up breathing room and close out the game. UCSD
    steadied out in game two keeping it close and holding a lead, 21-19. Two blocks
    by the 49ers tied the game, 23-23, but the Tritons pulled ahead with a little
    run, capped by an ace to bring the score to 26-24. Long
    out the game with a kill.

    The Tritons exploited poor 49er hitting, taking an early
    advantage and clinging to it late into the game, but Long

    overcame its numerous errors, coming back from a growing deficit to take the
    lead, 28-29. After five game points between the two teams, the Tritons
    prevailed 35-33.

    UCSD finally broke the recurring theme that has plagued it
    all season: having a late lead and seeing it disappear. While game three was no
    different in terms of losing its lead, Ring pointed to the team’s experience in
    the pressure situation as the key to the win.

    “We’ve been in that late-game position before and the more
    times we’re there, the better we’ll get at it,” he said. “Sometimes we come out
    on the winning side and others we don’t. Any little mistake can cost you but
    our composure was good and I thought [freshman setter] Phil [Bannan] really
    managed the offense well.”

    The energy was short lived as the 49ers rolled in game four,
    winning 30-18. Ring said one of the team’s all-American players took over,
    sending over a unique serve that the Tritons rarely see and were having
    difficulty passing.

    UCSD had high expectations against the 49ers after their
    30-19, 30-15, 30-27 victory over HIU. The Royals had difficulty defending the
    UCSD offense as the Tritons had a field day out-hitting HIU, 46-27. Senior
    outside hitter Russ Hardy led the way for the Tritons with 13 kills. UCSD used
    a 20-9 run to close out game one after seven ties and two lead changes.

    Little changed in game two as the Tritons continued to roll,
    firing out to a 22-9 lead. This lead would stick as they cruised to take two
    games to no advantage. The Royals fought from behind all of game three but were
    unable to match up to a faster UCSD team. Ring said the Royals were playing
    with a bare-boned roster due to injury and expects a much different match next
    time around.

    “[HIU] was a little depleted but we didn’t let that mentally
    affect us,” he said. “We served really well, our passing was strong and our
    middles effective. We handled the match from start to finish. This is
    definitely a team that will be better when they are healthy.”

    The Tritons now hold a 4-8 overall record but are still
    looking for their second conference win. To get that win in arguably the
    toughest conference in the nation, Ring said the team needs three or four guys
    to put together solid stretches during a match.

    “One or two guys having a good statistical game just aren’t
    enough,” he said. “We can win games but we need to get those stretches together
    with three or four guys. When that happens, we’re a good team.”

    The Tritons are back in action Feb. 13 and Feb. 16 with a
    pair of conference matches at No. 11 University of California and No. 5
    Pepperdine, who both knocked off UCSD a little over a week ago. The familiarity
    will play the lead role as the Tritons look to topple the Trojans and the
    Waves, respectively, and there will be little room for error as UCSD tries to
    stay afloat in the MPSF.

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