Triton Volleyball, Ready for Postseason

    This year, the Lady Tritons enter the NCAA tournament ranked No. 2 in the West and are bracketed to play No. 7 ranked Grand Canyon in the first round, to be followed in the second round by the winner of the matchup between Sonoma State (21-6) and Hawaii Hilo (15-6). The team did well against Sonoma last year in the tournament, but lost to them earlier this year in regular season play. Now, after the Tritons were swept in three games last week by perennial CCAA top dog Cal State San Bernardino, an opportunity to play in the quarterfinals seems like a long shot unless UCSD is lucky enough not to face San Bernardino, which plays last ranked Alaska Anchorage (18-8) in the first round.

    UCSD plays strongest when the talented yet inexperienced freshmen are directed by seniors Katie Condon, Roxanne Brunsting and Hillary Williamson. Despite the loss against San Bernardino this past weekend, Williamson came up with several kills in a row to tie the first game at 8-8.

    This brief highlight was followed by a rash of UCSD errors, resulting in their lowest attack percentage of the season at just .046 (27-22-117). Williamson recorded 11 digs to go over 1,000 career digs in the game, but it was not enough to counter San Bernardino’s Samantha Middleborn — the AVCA National Player of the Year — who had 15 kills and six blocks, leading the Coyotes to the win.

    The Tritons picked themselves back up when they played Cal State East Bay on Thursday. In the first set, the Tritons looked tired from their previous loss, making nine errors that cost them the first game 23-25.

    The Tritons rallied back in the second game. Although they committed eight errors, they eventually took the game 25-22. After the second game, the Tritons brought their errors down to three in games 3 and 4, to win 25-15 and 25-16.

    Senior outside hitter Condon initially struggled in the second game against East Bay’s front line, who blocked several of her kill attempts in a row. But the veteran adjusted her game to record several dinks over the blocker’s heads for points.

    Brunsting had a good game against the Pioneers with 13 kills for a total of 17.5 points. She also had 20 assists and an amazing .333 hitting percentage.

    Leadership from the Tritons’ Big Three: Condon, Brunsting and Williamson, who combined for 40 of the 55 Triton kills. Condon racked up her ninth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 18 digs, while Williamson led the Tritons, banging in 16 kills, 18 digs and a service ace to compliment her .382 hitting percentage. Williamson joined Brunsting in also surpassing the 1,000 mark for career kills.

    Cal State Monterey Bay didn’t know what hit them as they went down Saturday in three sets 25-23, 25-18 and 25-16 to the Tritons, who had lost to them earlier in the season. The game marked the last regular season game for seniors Brunsting, Condon, Freidenberg, Werhane, Williamson and Natasha Wilroy. Wilroy finished the season on a high note, throwing down 11 kills, while Wehane had 24 digs.

    The Tritons will now move on to NCAA Tournament play. With the second-seed in the West, the Tritons will face Grand Canyon — which came in second in the PAC West Conference. Grand Canyon has a 22-6 record and a veteran line-up that will test the Tritons.

    If the Tritons advance, they will await the winner of the game between Sonoma and Hawaii, but will probably go into the second round to face Sonoma. Hawaii-Hilo has the worst record in the tournament and has not seen tournament play since 2009.

    If UCSD can make it past the second round, the Tritons will probaby face No. 1 San Bernardino, which remains in perfect form at 27-0.

    To go deep into the tournament and upset San Bernardino’s perfect season, UCSD’s freshmen and seniors will have to come together and up their level of play.

    The Tritons have shown glimpses throughout the year, but have failed to string them together to produce dominant performances like those shown by San Bernardino. A focused, united Triton team has a great chance to take it all, but if it starts to fall apart with no one to step up, then UCSD won’t see the second round.

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