Women’s Volleyball Fall Preview

    Despite a few new faces and a new system, 2010 is far from a rebuilding year for UCSD’s women’s volleyball team. If the changes are made smoothly, the Tritons have the potential to continue their success from last season and make another playoff run.

    Tom Black, who coached the team for five years, has left to take the head coaching job at Loyola Marymount University. Black guided UCSD to a overall record of 115-29 during his tenure, including four straight postseason appearances. His replacement is Ricci Luyties, a former Olympic volleyball player and self-described conventional coach.

    “The previous coach ran a system that was very regimented, where they teach one thing that they want each player to do,” Luyties said. “I’m more of a traditional, old-school type coach. I try to look for what the player does best and utilize that.”

    Luyties comes to UCSD from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he led the Golden Eagles to their first ever Conference USA title in 2009.

    The Tritons return five starters, but graduated All-Americans Sylvia Schmidt and Elaine Chen have to be replaced. Junior Janessa Werhane has stepped up at libero, and has played well enough to ensure the departed seniors are not too badly missed. Of the returning starters, senior All-American Roxy Brunsting will lead the way after making the switch from libero to outside hitter.

    “Roxy has done a great job so far,” Luyties said. “She’s very good all-around player that could probably play any position on the court.”

    Despite the changes, expectations will be high as the Tritons try to continue the success they had in 2009. The team rose as high as No. 2 in the national rankings, compiling a 29–3 record and losing just twice in the regular season. UCSD was upset by No. 19 Cal State Los Angeles in the NCAA West Regionals to end the season.

    “We have high expectations,” Luyties said. “We want to win the conference championship. We want to go far in the NCAA tournament. The team was so successful last year, and we have quite a few returning players.”

    The No. 8 Tritons opened their season strong at the Phoenix Inn GNAC Conference Challenge in Monmouth, Ore., winning three of their four games in the two-day tournament. UCSD then returned home on Sept. 10 for their conference opener against Humboldt State, and swept the Lumberjacks 3–0 in an easy win. The Tritons continued their dominance with another 3–0 home win against Sonoma State the following night.

    However, the Tritons faltered after their strong season start, suffering three consecutive losses in games against No. 24 Cal State East Bay, Cal State Monterey Bay and San Francisco State. The losses dropped UCSD to No. 21 in the national rankings.

    “I think we’re going through a bit of a growing process right now,” Luyties said. “But I like the way the players have reacted to it so far.”

    The Tritons will look to rebound as they continue their road trip this weekend with games at Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus on September 24 and 25, respectively.

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