Triton Men’s Volleyball Nets Thrilling Victory Against No. 2 Long Beach State

Triton Mens Volleyball Nets Thrilling Victory Against No. 2 Long Beach State

UC San Diego men’s volleyball team (13–9, 5–4 Big West) went up against California State University, Long Beach (17–4, 6–2 Big West) in a matchup of Big West Conference heavyweights. Coming into tonight’s matchup, Long Beach State was ranked No. 2 in the nation, while the Tritons were ranked tenth. The two teams had faced the prior day in Long Beach, where the Tritons were swept 3 sets to none. With the benefit of home court, however, this match would prove to be different, as UCSD earned their first victory over Long Beach State in over a decade in front of 888 fans in RIMAC Arena, 16–25, 25–19, 25–20, 21–25, and 15–12.

The Tritons suffered to a slower start, going down 9–5 early on in the second quarter, struggling to keep pace with the powerful serves of the opposition. Senior middle blocker Shane Benetz came up with a big stuff to close the gap, which now stood at 9–7. Quickly CSULB continued to build momentum with a flurry of powerful serves and conversions off of free balls to inflate the lead to 15–8, forcing a timeout. Towards the end of the set, the team showed signs of life scoring 3 consecutive points to cut the lead to 23–15. The first set was lost 25–16 mostly uncompetitively, and the stage seemed to be set for another convincing win by LBSU.

The second set saw the Tritons implement some much-needed adjustments. The serves were controlled much better, and the team began to dominate the middle of the court with a healthy dosage of sets to the middle blockers. UCSD went to this well right away with a great set from senior setter Blake Crisp to Benetz to put the Tritons up 2–1, starting off their early lead which reached 4–1. Another set up in the middle came to senior middle blocker Logan Clark, who coolly tied the set at eight. 

Soon after, UCSD received two free balls in the midst of a rally, the second of which resulted in senior outside hitter Kyle McCauley taking advantage and giving the Tritons a 13–12 lead. McCauley helped to extend the lead shortly thereafter by slinging a cross shot to put the Tritons up 20–17. Just as LBSU closed the gap, Benetz stripped the momentum away with a timely kill to put the lead at 22–19. After a Benetz block and a McCauley kill, the Tritons ended a 4–0 run by winning the second set 25– 19.

Senior outside hitter Wyatt Harrison opened up the scoring in an all-important third set, and the Tritons would again look to dominate the middle. A kill from junior outside hitter Ryan Ka awarded UCSD an early 3–0 lead. After CSULB cut the lead to 7–6, UCSD went on a 4–0 run with Crisp’s serves targeting the power hitters for CSULB to take them out of their system, and an ace from Crisp gave the Tritons a comfortable 11–6 lead. 

CSULB once again shrunk the lead, only for Clark to force a waterfall ball that fell down on the other side of the net after the block connected on Clark’s powerful kill. On the next play, a rally was controlled by senior libero Matt Palma, whose two diving saves put the Tritons in position to take the lead up to 3, now 15–12. UCSD kept CSULB at arms’ length, and got within reach of victory in the third set when Harrison threaded a kill through a triple block to put the Tritons up 22–18. Consecutive errors by CSULB would give the Tritons the victory in set three, by a score of 25–20.

In set four, LBSU once again came out inspired and jumped out to a 15–8 lead. UCSD came out of the timeout with a 4–0 run capitalizing off of some errors from CSULB with the score showing 15–12. Needing a spark, UCSD got one from freshman outside hitter Ben Blakely, who scored 2 straight for the Tritons despite stout blocking, and sent a precise set across the court to McCauley to cut the CSULB lead to 19–17. The run ended there though, and CSULB forced the decisive fifth set with a 25–20 victory.

Shane Benetz converted the first 2 points for UCSD in the deciding fifth set, as the senior’s timely contributions persisted. Benetz followed that up with an absolutely stifling block to tie the game up at seven. Then, McCauley began to take over late, scoring kills that put the team up 9–8 and 10–9, respectively. UCSD broke the back-and-forth with a great pass from Palma, which gave Ka the opportunity to score his extremely difficult cross shot to go up 13–11, and Ka continued his clutch play by scoring the point after to go up 14–11. UCSD’s Logan Clark killed the final ball from the middle to give the Tritons the set 15–12, and won the match in a great performance between two motivated teams.

After the game, The UCSD Guardian caught up with Triton star Kyle McCauley about the team’s motivation after the loss to CSULB yesterday.

McCauley said, “We were pissed off, because that first set got away from us and we left a lot out there on the second and third sets, so we were rearing to go tonight.” 

The performance today supported that notion of a fired-up team, and the Tritons will look to build off this impressive victory with the Senior Night matchup on Saturday April 16 against UC Santa Barbara.

Image courtesy of Jeremiah Amaya / UC San Diego Athletics

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About the Contributor
Donovan Perez-Schipper
Donovan Perez-Schipper, Sports Editor
Donny loves sports so he writes about them. Donny studies politics and stuff outside of the newspaper, but mostly just chills on ESPN and hangs with my guy Hector Arrieta.
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