UC San Diego’s women’s volleyball team (7–13, 4–5 Big West) came into its road match against California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo expecting a competitive battle, and they certainly were up to the challenge. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo(9–11, 7–2) took the match in five sets, with each team seeming to settle in more and more throughout the match. In a match characterized by big runs, UCSD came up one short and lost the match three sets to two.
In a slow set one, UCSD had a tough time with the fundamentals that have helped them stay competitive throughout their inaugural season of Big West competition. UCSD was down 13–21 before a set from senior setter Isabela Dobra gave sophomore opposite Grace Cannon her third kill of the night. The first set was mostly quiet with UCSD having a hard time getting in their system off of Cal Poly attacks. The first set ended in Cal Poly’s favor by a tally of 25–15.
However, UCSD came out with more fire to start the second set. Freshman outside hitter Zaria Henderson nailed a sweet cross kill to put the Tritons up 8–3. The Tritons looked like a completely different squad to start, in sync and formidable up front. Highlighted by impressive digs from senior libero Susanna Limb, UCSD climbed to a 13–5 lead. Before UCSD could get comfortable, though, Cal Poly had a run of their own, but UCSD held strong with a strong block to put the Tritons back up 15–10. Steady play allowed Henderson to get a great kill to go up 23–16, and a kill from freshman middle blocker Juliette Bokor ended the set 25–18. UCSD took the momentum after a lackluster first set, but Cal Poly would not go down so easily.
In a crucial set three, the teams both looked more at ease. UCSD took the advantage with a great set from Dobra to put the Tritons up 5–3. Cal Poly would then break off a huge run to force a UCSD timeout, with the Tritons now facing an 11–7 deficit. Sophomore outside hitter Ava McInnes, heating up at the beginning of a great all-around performance (19 kills, 12 digs, 4 blocks), was huge for UCSD in the comeback attempt, and her block would cut the lead down to two as the set neared its end with UCSD down 22–20. Despite strong efforts, UCSD lost the set to a prepared Cal Poly, 25–21.
The first rally in set four fell for UCSD, and the Tritons would start out strong again. A block from Bokor put the advantage for the Tritons at 8–4. UCSD was dominant to start this set, and the momentum obviously shifted with one of sophomore libero Natalie Repetti’s three aces in the match that put the Tritons up 17–8. But Cal Poly came roaring back with a 7-point run, and UCSD needed a spark to survive the rally. Henderson again came through and stymied the Mustangs to put the lead at 19–16. Another impressive Bokor block put UCSD in the driver’s seat at 22–18, and a Cal Poly error awarded the set to the Tritons at 25–19. Now with a short 15-point fifth set to come, getting on a lengthy run would be even more important in deciding this match.
The teams started neck and neck, with each team visibly having fun and showing great determination. With the score at 7–7, the weight of each point was becoming obvious to each team. The back and forth continued, and the match was still up for the taking as the Tritons took an 11–10 lead on a kill from McInnes. But it would be Cal Poly that had the last run of this match in their pocket, as they uncorked a timely 5–1 run to take the set 15–12, and with it the match. An emotional loss for the Tritons was the result, but one can’t help but see a bright future for this young squad.
Though the match result was not the win that was both desired and attainable based on the performance, Coach Ricci Luyties should be impressed with the performance of these young Tritons under duress in a hostile environment. Next, the Tritons will be the hosts at RIMAC arena against California State University, Northridge on Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.
Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics