Volleyball Season Wraps With 24th-Straight Home-Court Victory

Senior outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt sends a kill past a pair of defenders. (John Hanacek/Guardian)
Senior outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt sends a kill past a pair of defenders. (John Hanacek/Guardian)

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL — In the final weekend of the 2009 regular season, the Tritons swept a pair of victories and saw their team captain — senior outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt — break UCSD’s all-time single-season kills record before throngs of fans on senior night on Nov. 14.

UCSD took down No. 18 Sonoma State on Nov. 13 before defeating the Humboldt State Lumberjacks in straight sets the following night. With a match-high 16 kills, Schmidt brought her season total to 447, surpassing a record of 439 set by Bonnie Wilson during the 2004 season.

Before the match on senior night, the Tritons honored Schmidt, setter Elaine Chen and outside hitters Karen Reis and Lauren Bradley — who together notched a combined 38 kills to sweep Humboldt State.

The win marked the last regular-season game for the Tritons before playoffs get underway on Nov. 19.

“That’s the joy of coaching,” head coach Tom Black said. “You only get four years with these girls, and there are a lot of great moments, a lot of really hard moments, but in the end it’s definitely worth it.”

During the first set against the Sonoma State Seawolves, the Tritons were in control from the beginning — and never let go. UCSD scored eight of the first eleven points and led by as many as nine points throughout the set, never allowing the Lumberjacks to pull within five points of the Triton lead. UCSD closed out the first set at 25-17 after a kill from junior middle blocker Cara Simonsen.

In the second set, the Lumberjacks played stronger, but not strong enough to pull ahead of the Tritons. After staying close to their opponents for the first half the set, the UCSD women went on a 5-1 run to take a 17-11 lead.

It was a lead the Tritons would never give up, and an ace from Chen finalized the 25-19 victory.

Building off their second set-efforts, the Lumberjacks gave UCSD its first solid challenge of the evening — up until the Tritons scored seven straight points to open the set 15-8.

The Humboldt blockers later proved to be a challenge for the Tritons, registering 13 blocks against UCSD. But with dominant senior play from the Tritons, the Lumberjacks couldn’t get enough of an edge to rival the attack.

Bradley and Reis notched the final kills of the night as UCSD took the set — and match — with a 25-20 victory.

“Well, I’m just looking at the positives,” Schmidt said. “I’m happy to have this opportunity to play with all my teammates. We just want to have fun out there, and really are a team as much as possible. It’s not about the scoreboard; it’s about who I’m playing with.”

Black said the senior night game was a fitting end to the regular season.

“It’s always bittersweet,” Black said. “You’re really going to miss them, but I’m really glad to be able to win in three, and they did a really good job. But we still got a lot of volleyball left in the playoffs.”

On Friday night, the Tritons defeated Sonoma State in three sets. Schmidt notched another 23 kills to help guide UCSD to its 23rd consecutive win at RIMAC Arena.

“We have great coaches and a great group of girls here, working really hard,” Schmidt said. “It’s a definite team sport. The passing is great and the setting is great, and it’s really a team effort.”

The Tritons held the lead through the entire first set despite a strong defensive effort from the Seawolves — who stayed within a few points of their host.

After Sonoma pulled within one point late in the match, UCSD called a timeout and came back firing, riding on two straight kills from Schmidt — who also nailed the set-winning kill — to give the Tritons a 25-19 victory.

In the second set, the Tritons stormed to an early lead. Schmidt sent down five kills, resulting in a quick 6-1 advantage. The Seawolves fought back to tie the set 8-8, but the Tritons recovered on a pair of Sonoma State errors.

One set away from victory, UCSD’s win didn’t come easily, as Sonoma slowed the Triton attack with a resilient defense.

With the score at 24-22, Schmidt put away the game’s final point with another clinching kill.

The Tritons ran into the weekend’s most serious challenge in the third set against the Seawolves, which saw eight ties and four lead changes.

The Tritons took a commanding lead halfway through the set, but the Seawolf blockers were able to close the Tritons hitting lanes, staging a late comeback to pull within one point.

Though the Tritons were not quite able to put the game away offensively, their defense stepped up to close the match 25-23 with a set of blocks from Chen and redshirt freshman middle blocker Julia Freidenberg.

The Tritons learned late Sunday night that they will face San Francisco State on Nov. 19 in the first round of the NCAA Western Regionals. UCSD swept San Francisco on Oct. 3 but dropped a four-set decision to the Gators on Nov. 6 — only their second loss of the 2009 season. Along with host Cal State San Bernardino, the 2009 West Regionals will feature Sonoma State, Cal State LA and the university of Alaska Anchorage.

“Preparation is the same as always: just get back into the game and work on what we need to work on,” Black said.

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected].

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