CSULA Stuns UCSD With First-Round Upset

    Junior outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt tallied 13 kills in the Tritons’ losing effort against CSULA in the NCAA West Regionals. The Golden Eagles came from behind to defeat the Tritons in five sets. (John Hanacek/Guardian File)

    WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL — The No. 11 UCSD women’s volleyball team started out strong against No. 21 Cal State Los Angeles in the first round of the NCAA West Regional Thursday night by winning the first two sets, but the Tritons faltered and lost the next three sets 24-26, 19-25, 26-24, 25-23, 15-13, ending their title hopes.

    After the loss, UCSD head coach Tom Black thanked the team for its hard work and dedication throughout the season.

    “There is only so much you can say at that kind of moment,” he said. “All you can ask for in sports is a chance — and we had it. It didn’t end up how we wanted, but we put ourselves in position and that’s all I could ask for.”

    Going into the match, the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles (21-7) were the sole California Collegiate Athletic Association team that the second-seeded UCSD (21-7) team had not beaten previously this year. The playoff match was similar to the teams’ Nov. 17 contest, when the Tritons took a two-set lead but were unable to put away CSU Los Angeles and lost in five games.

    The Tritons jumped out to an early 12-5 lead in the first game behind three kills from senior outside hitter Rebecca Bailey and an ace by defensive specialist Michelle Torres. A run by CSU Los Angeles was halted by freshman outside hitters Hillary Williamson and Katie Condon, who teamed up to send down consecutive kills, keeping a six-point UCSD advantage intact. Following a timeout, the Golden Eagles went on a 6-0 run to take a brief lead at 19-18 before the Tritons responded with a rally of their own. Senior outside hitter Kimberly Carpenter and Condon came back with three kills in a crucial run that tied the score at 24. A block by Bailey and junior outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt along with a CSU Los Angeles attack error ended the first set for UCSD.

    Bailey and Condon wreaked havoc on the Golden Eagles at the start of the second set as the duo combined for six kills, giving the Tritons a 14-9 lead. CSU Los Angeles made a slight comeback to bring the score within two, but Bailey and Condon again responded with an ace and a kill, giving UCSD a 24-16 edge. CSU Los Angeles mustered three more points before Schmidt put down the Tritons’ final kill.

    The third game was closely contested, featuring nine ties before the Tritons held a 15-12 lead midway through the set. Four kills by four different Tritons extended the lead to six points before a 6-1 scoring run by the Golden Eagles brought the score to 23-22. UCSD showed signs of life as Williamson sent down a kill to give the Tritons match point, but CSU Los Angeles would not go away. Two critical blocks by the Golden Eagles’ senior setter Ursula Vieira, a CSU Los Angeles service ace and a Triton attack error gave life to the Golden Eagles, who were playing with their backs to the wall.

    Carrying the momentum from the previous game, the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 12-7 lead early in the fourth set. UCSD came back to tie the score following a run that ended with an ace by junior outside hitter Karen Reis, but CSU Los Angeles quickly answered back with two straight points. Neither team gave ground and the score remained within a point until the Golden Eagles were able to pull together and force an attack error following a kill to tie the match at two games apiece.

    After dropping two sets that could have ended the match, the Tritons came out in the fifth game focused and determined. UCSD looked as if it would take the game as three kills by Carpenter helped secure an early 8-4 lead. Carpenter chipped in two more kills and Schmidt added another, which forced a final timeout by CSU Los Angeles. The Golden Eagles came out of the timeout rejuvenated, scoring five of the next six points to tie the score at 12. A kill by the Golden Eagles and a UCSD attack error ended the Tritons’ championship hopes in heartbreaking fashion.

    “We came in really confident and ready to play,” sophomore outside hitter Lauren Bradley said. “It was really disappointing that it didn’t go our way — and it really hurts — but we’re proud of how far we made it as a team.”

    Bailey finished the night with team-high 21 kills while junior setter Elaine Chen tallied 60 assists, six digs and four kills. In addition, the freshman duo of Condon and Williamson contributed 13 kills and eight kills respectively.

    Despite the sudden and unexpected end to the season, Black said he feels the team learned many lessons to carry into next year.

    “I think they’re going to keep going strong,” Black said of his players. “The girls are really passionate about the game, and they love the team. They come into the gym everyday excited to get better, and those are the kind of characteristics that are important.”

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