Women’s Volleyball Notches Gutsy Win Over Cal State Northridge

Fresh off a few demoralizing losses and injuries, one could have expected this young Tritons women’s volleyball team to cave under the pressure. Instead, UC San Diego (8–14, 5–6 Big West) defeated California State University, Northridge (4–17, 3–8 Big West) in an impressive showing for the entire roster. Facing injuries, coach Ricci Luyties inserted new lineups today, and the team responded well. Though the sets were tight until the final frame, the team showed great resilience with their 3–1 victory.

The first set was filled with back-and-forth play with neither team able to take a significant advantage. After the halfway point of the first set, UCSD sophomore outside hitter Ava McInnes scored a big kill to cut the CSUN lead to 16–15. CSUN was hitting away from junior libero Naya Dong to start the game, and the strategy resulted in some trouble receiving for the Tritons. After a CSUN tip gave the Matadors 3 straight points and forced a UCSD timeout, the Tritons came right back with 3 straight of their own, highlighted by 2 aces from Dong. The Tritons tied it at 22, but another clutch run by CSUN awarded them the first set, 25–22. 

Seeking to take hold of the momentum, the teams started off the second set fairly even. A great kill from freshman middle blocker Juliette Bokor gave the Tritons a 9–7 lead, but still the Tritons couldn’t shake their opponent. That was, at least until senior setter Isabela Dobra looked to take over, with consecutive precise sets to senior opposite Trinity Castañeda and McInnes to go up 17–14. Shortly thereafter, one of sophomore opposite Grace Cannon’s 4 blocks of the night forced a CSUN timeout with the Tritons inflating the lead to 21–17. But the Matadors surged back to go up 23–22 and put the Tritons on the edge of a difficult 2–0 hole. But freshman outside hitter Sabire Karacaova had three consecutive kills under pressure to give the Tritons a very important victory in the second set, 25–23, and even the match at a set apiece.

UCSD started the third set a little slower, starting down 3–0, but a Castañeda kill opened up the scoring and seemed to bring the crowd of 271 to life in RIMAC. The Tritons would remain a few points behind to start, but showing the resilience that has characterized this team all season, they would not go away. Bokor landed an impressive block to cut the CSUN lead to 1, now 10–9. Just as the Tritons needed a run, they delivered. Great defense up front led the team to their most important run of the night with 5 consecutive points, shifting all of the momentum towards the Tritons and forcing a Matador timeout with UCSD up 17–14. The Tritons started to run away with it going up 22–16, but CSUN crept back into the set with 3 straight points. UCSD showed poise in this situation with a nice set up for Karacaova putting the Tritons at set point, 24–20. They followed it up with McInnes getting a kill off a free ball to win the set 25–20. 

UCSD needed a spark in set four, and the ever-dependable McInnes dutifully provided a kill, one of her team-high 18 on the night, to break the tie and put the Tritons up 6–5. UCSD slowly crept away, with Castañeda again stepping up with a powerful kill to put UCSD in the driver’s seat at 15–12. Dobra gave McInnes a back-line set for a kill that fired up RIMAC Arena to go up 18–14, and the Tritons never looked back. UCSD finally ran away with the building momentum, and capitalized on an ace to give UCSD a 25–18 victory in the fourth and final set. 

Many young teams would have reacted to injuries and having to mess with lineups negatively, but throughout the roster these student athletes showed up strong. 

Luyties said, “I think in the Big West, every match is tough, but we’ve learned every match and gotten better. We’ve had setbacks with players being hurt, or out, or different changes that have happened on our team. So overall, I’m really happy with what we’ve done this year. I think we’re getting better and better.” 

After publication, the next matchup for UCSD will be at UC Irvine on Thursday, Nov. 4. The Tritons will look to even up their conference record and continue to improve their cohesion in another pivotal Big West matchup.

Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics