Volleyball Charges into First-Place Tie

john Hanacek/Guardian
John Hanacek/Guardian

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL — Motivated by the thunderous applause from the homecoming weekend crowd, the UCSD women’s volleyball team defeated No. 2 Cal State San Bernardino in four games, handing the Coyotes their first loss of the season.

The hype surrounding UCSD’s homecoming weekend was a boost for the Tritons in their most important match of the season — filling the stands with former alumni and family, along with throngs of spirited students.

The women avenged their only loss of the season, a Sept. 11 fall to the same San Bernardino squad. The Tritons are now tied for first place with the Coyotes in the California Collegiate Athletic Conference and now sport a 20-1 overall record, 12-1 in-conference.

“It feels amazing to get the win,” senior captain setter Elaine Chen said. “I’m proud of the team for what we’ve accomplished.”

In the first set of the night, San Bernardino came out strong with a powerful offensive attack, but the Tritons adjusted and regained momentum early in the set.

“They had powerful hitters,” senior captain outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt — who finished the night with a team-leading 18 kills — said. “We just focused and played well and passed well.”

UCSD demonstrated a calm demeanor early on, putting the Coyotes down 25-19 in the first set of the match, with Schmidt delivering the game-winning kill.

In the second set, the Tritons capitalized on key Coyote errors, but a slew of their own mistakes early on kept UCSD from grabbing control. With the score tied 6-6, UCSD took off on an 8-1 run, marked by clutch kills from Schmidt and a solid defense.

While much of the Tritons’ success this season has been generated by the team’s offense, defensive players proved just as decisive this time around: Most of the Coyotes’ hits were handled and passed on target.

The Coyotes could not muster much offensive strength as UCSD cruised to a 25-16 victory in the second set.

“The girls did what they trained to do,” head coach Tom Black said. “They kept doing what they needed to do. There’s no magic involved.”

Though the second set left the Coyotes looking defeated and the Tritons poised to sweep the conference leaders, Cal State San Bernardino turned in a solid third-game performance to claw back into the game.

A Triton offense that had been stellar for the first two sets could not penetrate the Coyote block, and Cal State San Bernardino won its first set 25-13.

The Coyotes started strong in the fourth set, jumping out to an early lead. As San Bernardino powered through the UCSD defense, the Triton bench — fueled by the cheering crowd — expressed their disapproval of a referee’s call, resulting in a yellow card for the UCSD bench.

The penalty only served to catalyze the Triton players, and UCSD surged past the Coyotes to grab a 21-19 lead.

After a pair of San Bernardino time outs — and with a 23-19 lead — the Tritons finished the match with a resounding block to secure the win and seek revenge against the only team to have beaten them this season.

“The best part is that we beat them,” Schmidt said. “We had a great crowd tonight, and they’re kind of a rival for us.”

The night before taking on the Coyotes, UCSD went up against the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos, a team the Tritons had already defeated early in the season. In the first set of the night, sophomore outside hitter Katie Condon quickly put down eight kills in the set.

UCSD jumped out to an early lead, with Chen leading the charge by setting tight balls on the net and ringing up multiple assists.

The Tritons’ offense was relentless, and Schmidt continued the powerful swings. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Julia Freidenberg provided crucial blocks on potential Bronco kills, as the Tritons cruised to a 25-18 victory.

“Elaine’s setting was awesome,” Condon said. “We wanted to start strong, and that’s what we did.”

In the second set, UCSD took advantage of several key Bronco mistakes. The Tritons easily overpowered Pomona and raced to a 25-11 victory with more solid hitting and a game-winning kill from Condon.

“We were really focused,” Black said. “We didn’t make many errors in the set, and were able to win.”

Looking to avoid a three-set sweep, Cal Poly Pomona came out tough in the third set. The Broncos played resiliently, and the Tritons were unable to pull away.

Cal Poly Pomona battled the Tritons evenly throughout the set and pulled within two scores to 18-16 — before UCSD went on another solid run to finish off the game with a final score of 25-21.

The Tritons begin their second half of conference play on Oct. 21, when they travel to Cal State Dominguez Hills to play a night match, before returning home on Oct. 23 to play Cal State Los Angeles.

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected]

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