Coming off of some great performances, the UC San Diego women’s volleyball team (6–12, 3–4 Big West) lost a tough match to California State University, Long Beach. (9–9, 3–4 Big West). In their second-ever matchup, UCSD hoped to ring in the Division I era of women’s volleyball with their first ever victory over CSULB , but fell short in a competitive performance. These two talented teams seemed evenly matched throughout the game, which CSULB won three sets to one, but experience favored CSULB, giving them the advantage and the victory.
In the first set, UCSD was having early troubles with passing, especially off serves, and had to call timeout upon going down 6–9. UCSD kept it close, though, and took advantage of a few miscues from the opposition to force a timeout as the set neared the finish line, knotting the set at 19. Out of the timeout, junior libero Naya Dong got a great dig, setting up a kill from senior outside hitter Emily Hubbard down the middle to put the Tritons up 1.
UCSD showed their resilience with a kill from sophomore outside hitter Ava McInnes, but they dropped the first set by a tally of 25–22. UCSD came out in the second set with more of a flare, after gaining confidence from the close comeback. As she often does, senior opposite Trinity Castañeda started off fast, getting the opening block followed by a kill to open up a 2–0 lead. Senior setter Isabela Dobra, who took over at the setter position in this second set, calmed the team down and got the offense working well. Her set to McInnes tied the game at 5, but UCSD’s passing miscues off of big serves continue to keep the team out of rhythm.
This second set was a very entertaining one, with lots of back and forth action displaying the parity between these teams. Freshman middle blocker Emily McDaniel was starting to shine in what would be a career night for her, as she converted a kill on a great set from Dobra, narrowing the CSULB lead to 16–15. McDaniel soon followed that with her seventh kill, and a great rally ending with a kill from freshman middle blocker Juliette Bokor gave the Tritons the 19–17 lead. Both teams kept it close, but a powerful McInnes kill put CSULB on the brink and forced a timeout, as UCSD went up 23–21.
2 points later, UCSD appeared to win the set with a dump from Dobra, but a timely challenge from CSULB overturned the point. With UCSD up 24–23, the two teams engaged in a great rally, but eventually the Tritons forced an error from the Sharksand took the very competitive set.
In a crucial set 3, Castañeda again started the scoring for the Tritons. The crowd could feel the momentum shift as UCSD was great by the net, with Dobra and McDaniel scoring off of consecutive blocks to force a timeout and put the Tritons up 7–3. While the Tritons looked to take a decisive advantage, CSULB kept the game in arms’ reach and took the lead. McDaniel got her 10th kill, and another kill soon after tied the game at 18. Despite McDaniel’s dominance, however, UCSD struggled to return some powerful CSULB serves and lost the set 25–21.
Relinquishing the lead in set three only gave the Tritons a greater sense of urgency, as the team again started very strong to go up 6–0. But just as in the prior set, CSULB stayed calm in the face of adversity, and clawed its way back into the game; CSULBwould go on to take a 16–13 lead, with all the momentum of the match on their side. Despite showing great effort, UCSD could not take the momentum back, losing the set 25–19, and the match, 3–1.
The match was a tough loss for the Tritons, as they lost early leads in each of the last two sets. In a well-rounded UCSD performance, McDaniel led the way with a career-high 16 kills on great efficiency. The CSULB power hitters and serves gave Tritons fits, and although UCSD started hot in multiple sets, the team struggled to contain CSULB’s offense.The Tritons’ next game will be at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo on Friday Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., where the Tritons will look to keep gaining experience in this inaugural Big West campaign.
Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics