Slow Start Corrodes UCSD Effort Against No. 2 Stanford

John Hanacek/Guardian

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL — Coming off a week of mixed results, the UCSD men’s volleyball team traveled north on March 5 to compete in a grueling battle against one of the most well-rounded teams in the conference: No. 2 Stanford University. Unfortunately for UCSD, Stanford bettered the Tritons in three of four matches, with a final count of 30-18, 30-20, 28-30, 30-20.

The loss dropped the Triton record to 5-13 overall, 2-11 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.

At the beginning of the match, Stanford quickly grabbed the lead, leaving UCSD to battle its way back. Against such a sturdy opponent, the challenge was too great for the Tritons.

Stanford started the first set by scoring five of the initial seven points. Though the Tritons took the lead after scoring eight of the next 10 points — senior opposite hitter Frank Fritsch’s kill marking the last Triton point — the Cardinal fought back to take the set 30-18.

The Cardinal carried on in winning form, easily winning the second set 30-20 and taking an early lead of 8-3 in the third.

“We got off to a poor start,” head coach Kevin Ring said. “We played well in game one, but Stanford kept getting great plays, so we fell behind. We knew we had to get off to a better, consistent start to win.”

John Hanacek/Guardian

However, UCSD pushed to make amends, tying the set 17-17 on a kill from junior middle-blocker Calvin Ross. Both teams were neck-and-neck until freshman middle-blocker Cyrus Kiani’s kill won the set 30-28 for UCSD.

Unfortunately, the Tritons lost momentum in the fourth set. The Cardinals took advantage of this lag to claim a final 30-20 victory.

Although the match did not end as the Tritons had hoped, individual players still came out on top. Junior opposite hitter Joel Davidson led with 17 kills, sophomore opposite hitter Carl Eberts added 10 kills on .364 hitting and Kiani and freshman opposite hitter Alex Simon had nine kills each. Senior setter Erik Sierks contributed 34 assists and sophomore libero Andrew Kaban made eight digs.

The Tritons squared off against the University of the Pacific in Stockton on March 6. Coming off the previous night’s loss, the team was determined to turn things around. Hard work and steady momentum paid off when the Tritons defeated Stockton 31-29, 30-17, 33-35, 30-24. The victory marked the Tritons’ fifth consecutive win over the Tigers in as many meetings, bumping UCSD’s record to 6-23 overall and 3-11 in MPSF play.

The first set began as an even battle. After working hard to tie the set score at 24 apiece, the Tigers took the lead 29-28. However, UCSD managed to claim the hard-fought set after a triple block and a kill by Fritsch took the score to 31-29.

UCSD kept a steady pace to claim the second set 30-17.

Unexpectedly, the Tigers rallied to an early 7-1 lead in the third set. UCSD caught up momentarily to tie the score at 14-14; however Stockton emerged on top of a 35-33 score.

“We had opportunities to win the third set, but the loss was a heartbreaker,” Ring said. “We didn’t want Pacific to gain momentum with the win, so we had to start off with a quick lead.”

Although the lead seesawed between the teams several times, the Tritons held on until the very end of the fourth set and claimed it 30-24, thanks to a kill by senior outside hitter Jason Spangler and a Tiger service error.

The win reflected strong individual performances from a few key players. Fritsch led with 19 kills, while junior middle blocker Adrian Guthals had 13 kills and nine blocks. Spangler contributed 13 kills and 11 digs. Kiani added 12 kills, and junior setter Phil Bannan led in assists with 58.

The Tritons will return to action when they travel to Romeoville, Ill., to face off against Lewis University on March 12 and March 13.

Readers can contact Jessy Jahangir at [email protected].

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