Roller Coaster Run

    Although the regular season didn’t go as smoothly as planned, the UCSD Women’s Volleyball team still made it to its fifth straight NCAA  Division II tournament. The Tritons will start their postseason run against conference rivals Sonoma State on Thursday.

    The Tritons were given an at-large bid to the tournament and received the fourth seed in the West Region, setting up the third meeting of the season between the two squads. The Tritons have won both matches, sweeping the first on their home court, then being pushed to five sets in the match in Sonoma. Though UCSD is 22-5 against the Seawolves all-time, Thursday will be the first meeting between the squads in the postseason.

    “I think we have to go into this game more prepared than the last one,” junior libero Janessa Werhane said. “When we played them away we took them to five, and I think that tells us that we can’t take this team lightly.”

    The Tritons are making their fifth straight trip to the tournament, and 10th overall. UCSD has missed the postseason only once since moving to Division II. The Tritons have won their first round game for four of the last five years.

    Sonoma State is making its third straight appearance, but the Seawolves are still looking for their first win in the playoffs.

    Werhane said the NCAA tournament makes the matchup different despite the familiarity with their opponents.

    “I think you have it hanging it over your head: It’s not conference anymore, it’s single elimination,” Werhane said. “You have to go all out, or else you go home. I think that puts a little extra drive in the way we play and what we want to do here. You have to recognize that this is it.”

    Cal State San Bernardino earned the No. 1 seed in the West Region with a 25-2 overall record, and will host all of the West Region matches. The Coyotes — who captured their fifth straight CCAA title this season — will play eighth-seeded BYU-Hawaii. The Coyotes have won 43 straight matches on their home court, although their last loss came to UCSD in 2008. Should the Tritons emerge victorious against Sonoma State, they will play the winner of that match.

    UCSD suffered a five-game losing streak early in the season, the program’s longest since 1992. But the Tritons were able to right the ship, and won 13 of their remaining 15 matches with the only blemishes being two losses to San Bernardino.

    The Tritons have relied on a strong rotation of veterans for success. Junior outside hitter Katie Condon leads the team in kills and points, and versatile junior Roxy Brunsting has had multiple triple-double matches since starting to see time as a setter mid-season. Finally, Werhane has been the clear defensive leader for the Tritons has topped the team in digs.

    “We don’t need to change anything,” Werhane said. “We just need to come in here and know that we’ve had a good season and we turned it around. We know how to play volleyball and we know how to play it well.”

    The UCSD-Sonoma State match will start at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18 at Cal State San Bernardino’s Coussoulis Arena. If the Tritons advance past Sonoma State, they will play on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of the match between Cal State San Bernardino and BYU-Hawaii.

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