Tritons Drop Pair to Top-10 Rivals

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL — The No. 13 UCSD men’s volleyball team was swept by No. 1 Cal State Northridge on Feb. 12 at RIMAC Arena 30-26, 30-26, 30-27.

UCSD leveled the score in each set to 20-20, but the Matadors proved the stronger team, claiming all three sets with late rallies. The loss dropped UCSD to 4-8 overall, with a 1-6 record in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

In the first set, the score was tied 15 times — the last at 23-23, after a kill from senior outside hitter Jason Spangler. The Matadors scored the next five points to claim a 28-23 lead, before closing the set with a 30-26 victory.

The second set played out much like the first. After 14 ties, the Matadors scored five of six points to take a 25-21 lead. The Tritons then rallied back to reduce the Matadors’ lead to 27-25. However, Cal State Northridge eventually took the set 30-26.

In the third set, UCSD led 16-15 after a kill from junior middle blocker Adrian Guthals. Cal State Northridge fought back to tie the set at 20-20, then scored the next three points by two kills and a UCSD error. UCSD fought back to 26-25, but Cal State Northridge widened the gap to 28-25.

The Matadors claimed the third set 30-27. The Tritons hit at .500 in the third set, while the Matadors hit at .486.

Senior opposite hitter Frank Fritsch led the Tritons with 17 kills, junior outside hitter Joel Davidson had 11 kills and Spangler contributed 10 kills for UCSD. Sophomore libero Andrew Kaban made a match-high 11 digs, while junior setter Phil Bannan contributed 45 assists. Guthals had seven kills on .667 hitting and five blocks.

With no rest for the weary, the Tritons faced off against No. 10 UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 13. Unfortunately, they were defeated by the Gauchos 28-30, 33-31, 30-21, 28-30, 16-14. This was the third match of the season that was settled in five sets, with UCSB victorious in the last two.

With the score tied at 27-27, the Tritons grabbed the next two points with a kill from Davidson and a UCSB error. Davidson closed out the set with another kill.

The second set saw 16 ties, and neither team held more than a three-point lead at any time. The Tritons led 26-23 after a Davidson ace, but the Gauchos scored four straight points to regain the lead. After UCSD took a 31-30 lead when Bannan pounded a kill after a UCSB overpass, UCSB tied the match again with a block, and a UCSD attacking error handed the Gauchos the set.

Despite a .444 hitting percentage, the Tritons came up short: The Gauchos dominated the third set 30-21.

In the fourth set, UCSD led 26-20 after a service error from the Gauchos. UCSB fought back within 27-25 before a Spangler kill helped UCSD regain the focus. However, the Gauchos did not give up, narrowing UCSD’s lead to 29-28.

Fortunately for the Tritons, redshirt freshman middle blocker Cyrus Kiani sent down a kill for a 30-28 win, forcing another set.

In the decisive fifth set, the Gauchos scored four of the first five points, but UCSD fought back to 7-6. With the score tied at 10-10, the Gauchos scored consecutive points, piling pressure on the Tritons. After a UCSB error, UCSD fought back to draw the game at 14-14. However, a UCSB kill and block sealed the end of the match at 16-14, in favor of the Gauchos.

UCSB junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel proved to be the star of the match, sending down a match-high 33 kills. Spangler led UCSD with 23 kills, and Davidson followed with 19. Fritsch and junior middle blocker Calvin Ross added seven kills each; the latter made a team-high nine blocks.

Redshirt freshman opposite Alex Simon came off the bench to contribute six kills in the match. Andrew Kaban had a match-high 14 digs, and Bannan managed a double-double in the match with 66 assists and 11 digs.

In spite of the disappointing outcome, head coach Kevin Ring said he is pleased with the team’s performance.

“Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how we played in the matches,” Ring said. “We did pretty well coming back to tie the sets, and just need better execution to win the points.”

The Tritons will return to action on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20, when they host back-to-back games against Brigham Young University beginning at 7 p.m. in RIMAC Arena.

Readers can contact Jessy Jahangir at [email protected].

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