CSULA Repeats Playoff Dominance Over UCSD

SPORTS-vball1113-20091115150641-0-EJWOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL — It was deja vu for the No. 3 Tritons this past weekend, when they fell to No. 19 Cal State Los Angeles in the NCAA West Region Semifinals on Nov. 20 for the second-straight year.

The Golden Eagles felled the Tritons after a hard-fought match, ending the UCSD women’s season and effectively taking senior outside hitter Sylvia Schmidt at bay by holding her to 12 kills — one kill below her season average for three-set games. In the past two seasons, the Tritons have dropped four out of six matches to the Golden Eagles, two of which came in the playoffs.

After being swept on Saturday night, the Tritons fall out of postseason play while the Golden Eagles advanced to the next round.

“It feels pretty low,” head coach Tom Black said. “It’s hard not to hurt a little bit after this one. We beat them twice this year. There’s no doubt that we can beat them; it’s just the way it happens.”

In the first set, the Tritons held a small advantage, taking a brief lead on early plays. However, the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run off a close score to take the lead 20-15 — the largest of the set for either team. The Tritons battled back within two points, but could not pull any closer in the set and eventually fell 25-21.

“I thought [Cal State Los Angeles] played the best I’ve ever seen them play,” Black said. “We had some nice moments, but I think that on the whole we struggled. It’s just that combination.”

In the second set, the Tritons came out strong, looking to avenge the outcome of the previous set. Taking seven of the first 10 points, the Tritons were performing at the peak of their game, but — much like in the first set — the Golden Eagles went on a run of their own and took a three-point lead halfway through the set.

The Tritons battled back to a tie and took their second lead of the night 21-20 after a kill by Schmidt. The Golden Eagles finished even stronger, though, finishing the second set off 25-21.

Coming out of halftime, the Golden Eagles jumped to a five-point lead and never looked back. The Tritons fought to come within one point, but CSULA regained the advantage and held on tightly to an effective lead, closing out the match and the upset with a third straight win, 25-22.

On Thursday night, the Tritons won in the first round, taking revenge on the San Francisco State Gators — who, earlier this season, ended a Triton win streak of 16 games. With the three-set victory, the Tritons notched their first postseason sweep since 2004, when they swept Cal State Bakersfield in the first round.

“We saw some mistakes from that loss, and the girls responded well with the adjustments,” Black said.

Through the entire match, the Tritons had the clear advantage, rarely playing from behind. Schmidt — who was just named conference player of the year — played at peak performance, and the rest of the team stepped up their game to remove the Gators’ postseason hopes.

Despite the victory on Thursday night, UCSD’s season will now come to an end. It will be the last collegiate performance for four Tritons, but the majority of the team will return to play next season, ready for another chance.

“It’s hard to replace some great players,” Black said. “You just have to create a different dynamic of the team and work with that. All our middles are coming back, so there’s obviously a big plus for us. But that’s college athletics: reloading and making a new picture.”

Readers can contact Tyler Nelson at [email protected].

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