On the first game of a four game road trip, the UC San Diego women’s volleyball team (8–7, 1–2 Big West) faced off against a struggling UC Riverside team (3–9, 1–2 Big West) in a thrilling match. UCSD women’s volleyball won their last four matchups against Riverside dating back to 1995 and were looking to continue that streak. Unfortunately for the Tritons, UCR snapped that streak and the Tritons ended up losing in five sets, with the final set ending in a tight score of 15–17.
The first set started off very well for UCSDas they were able to score the first two points of the set, starting strong. UCSD was able to mount a 3-point lead at a score of 11–8 off of a kill from sophomore outside hitter Zaria Henderson, one of her season-high 17 on the night. UCR made a comeback off the back of a setting error from UCSD and were then within one point at a 17–16 scoreline. Eventually, UCSD was able to break the Highlander momentum with an excellent kill from freshman middle blocker Jasmine Saran. The Tritons were able to string that kill into two more points, bringing their lead up to four at a scoreline of 20–16. Soon after, an error from UCR ended the set 25–18 in UCSD’s favor.
The Tritons comfortably controlled the first set and now looked to go up 2-0 in the match. Unluckily for UCSD, the Highlanders were able to jump out of the gates hot with a 4-7 lead off the back of a service ace, one of their 15 on the night. The Tritons were able to claw their way back into the set off of Henderson’s kill, which tied the game at sixteen. Although UCSD was back in the game, they were unable to handle the serves from UCR with back-to-back service aces that pushed the Highlanders to eventually win the set 22–25.
Both teams had one set a piece going into the third set; this was truly anyone’s game now. UCSD managed to pull away early from the Highlanders off of a perfect set from freshman setter Aubrey Tanner to sophomore outside hitter Ava McInnes for a kill that pushed the lead to four in a 14–10 game. Per usual for this match, UCR was able to make a comeback and take the lead at a score of 20–24. The Tritons, with their back against the wall, attempted a late comeback, scoring three straight points, but unfortunately they fell short and the Highlanders finished the set at a score of 23–25.
The Tritons, with the match on the line, were determined to push this to a fifth set. The Tritons started out hot, scoring four straight points to take a 9–6 lead. Off the back of a couple errors from the Highlanders, the Tritons were able to push the lead to four points at a 12–8 score. But UCR would not go down quietly as they fired off 10 of the next 12 points in the game, bringing the score to 14–18. Fortunately for UCSD, this match has been a story of runs and comebacks. Off the back of multiple kills from McInnes and a kill from Henderson, the Tritons were able to tie the game up at eighteen. After a strong run from UCR, the Tritons were again down, at a score of 20–23. With the match on the line, the Tritons responded emphatically. UCSD fired off five straight points with huge contributions coming from middle blockers Emily McDaniel and Shara Da Silva as they contributed three of the five points at the end with their amazing defending, giving the Tritons a 25–23 win.
UCSD was able to force a fifth set with their elite determination to win. It was evident that all of the momentum was on the Tritons side. After multiple McDaniel kills, the Tritons were able to jump out to an 8–2 lead. Eventually, the Highlanders woke up scoring back to back service aces once again. Continuing off the two aces, UCR was able to tie the set at 11 apiece. For the remainder of the set, both teams would respond instantly to each other going one for one, until the Highlanders were able to stuff UCSD at the net, winning the set 15–17 and the match 3–2.
UCSD fell to the Highlanders on their first game of the road trip. Although they lost, there are positives to take away with amazing performances from Zaria Henderson, Ava McInnes, and Emily McDaniel — a strong young core for the Tritons. UCSD looks ahead to UC Davis on Saturday, Oct. 1 to try to bounce back and gain some momentum against a difficult Big West slate.
Art Courtesy of Nicholas Regli