Tritons Fall Short Against UC Davis in Four Sets

UC San Diego women’s volleyball (8–16, 5–8 Big West) has had a rough go of it in recent weeks, facing injuries down the stretch of their Big West schedule. Against UC Davis (9–15, 5–8 Big West), the Tritons seemed competitive, but similar to many recent matches, had a difficult time filling the roles of missing players. UCSD lost in four sets, 20–25, 18–25, 25–18, 18–25, and there were certainly some good signs in the performance from the team’s young players despite the circumstances. 

The match started off close, with UCSD’s senior setter Isabela Dobra setting the tone with her energy and control. A kill set up by Dobra was scored by freshman outside hitter Zaria Henderson, and the first set’s deficit was cut to one with a score of 8–9. The Tritons were having trouble up front to start this match, with UC Davis’ run coming after scoring a slew of kills after the Tritons struggled to get a kill off. A few sets from junior libero Naya Dong brought the Tritons within striking distance at 20–24, but ultimately UCSD was not able to capture the first set, and would need to find some power close to the net for this match to remain competitive. 

After going down 7–3 early in the second set, UCSD seemed like they were in trouble again before putting together a short 3–0 run highlighted by a kill from up-and-coming sophomore opposite Grace Cannon. The Tritons again struggled on defense and were getting outplayed close to the net, while also allowing an ace. The game seemed like it was quickly getting out of hand, when senior libero Susanna Limb got an ace of her own to cut the lead to 17–12. The Dobra-Henderson connection worked again, and UCSD slowly worked their way back into the set at 20–17. Still, the Tritons were in a precarious spot but seemed to have all the momentum. Instead of capitalizing, however, the Tritons dropped five of the next six points to lose the set 25–18 in a demoralizing set two loss. 

While the second set couldn’t have helped team morale, the Tritons came back with a healthy mindset and started to look like the fiery team we’re accustomed to seeing. UCSD jumped out to a 6–2 lead spearheaded by one of freshman outside hitter Sabire Karacaova’s team-high 15 kills. Later, two consecutive Karacaova shots would extend the lead to 14–8, and the Tritons were looking at their formula for success. UC Davis did not have an answer for Karacaova, and Dobra dishing it out to Henderson or Karacaova seemed to be working off of good passes from the back line. UCSD continued to keep UC Davis at arm’s reach with Dobra leading the team and picking apart the defense. A strong kill from Henderson gave UCSD the third set by a score of 25–18. 

The fourth set would test whether the connection between the setters and hiters could lead the Tritons to an unprecedented comeback. It did not appear to be the case, as the Tritons again were outplayed, this time with receiving becoming an issue. The Tritons were fighting hard, but the game slowly slipped away as a tired and inexperienced Tritons team seemed out of options after a set in which they looked mostly unstoppable. After being down by seven points multiple times, a 4–0 run from UCSD again brought some hope, putting the Tritons down 16–19 with Dong setting up Dobra in a neat role reversal showing off the veterans’ dexterity. However, this would be the last sign of hope for the Tritons, as they would eventually lose this set as well by a score of 18–25. 

While there were glimpses of hope for the Tritons, this match likely was a step back in what has been both a compelling and tumultuous debut season for the Triton’s team. Although there were times where the Tritons looked deflated, they showed effort and poise in front of a hostile intraconference crowd while not having the full roster at their disposal. 

The Tritons will play next on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at UC Irvine, where the Tritons will look to steal a match from a talented, but beatable Anteater squad that edged out UCSD in five sets in their earlier meeting on Oct. 5.

Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics