Promising Start Shows Potential for Young UCSD Men’s Volleyball


Donovan Perez-Schipper

UC San Diego men’s volleyball (6–8, 0–1 Big West) had a difficult showing against one of the better teams in the conference on Friday, California State University, Northridge (11–5, 1–0 Big West). CSUN, which is nationally ranked at No. 14, had trouble early on with the Tritons’ athleticism. Unfortunately for the Tritons, the match became tougher as the relatively experienced Matadors grew more comfortable. Although the game proved to be a tough test for this young team, the first conference game of many of their careers was filled with positives. 

The match began with the Tritons showing impressive offensive flair. The team came out firing, but the aggressiveness did result in self-inflicted errors that helped the opposition gain some momentum. Just as the flow of the game was seeming to shift away from the Tritons, redshirt senior Ryan Ka pulverized the ball and got the crowd on their feet, with the Tritons suddenly feeling like they were in control of the match. CSUN was unrelenting and mounted a mini-run that included a point after UCSD freshman libero Evan Boyle made a diving bump to keep the rally alive. Unfortunately, this still resulted in a CSUN conversion after a stiff block. UCSD returned with a block of their own, as towering redshirt freshman Peter Selcho, the middle blocker, stuffed a CSUN attempt on a cross-shot as the Tritons pulled within 2 points, 16–14. 

UCSD’s run continued throughout the first set with the energy provided by Selcho, with UCSD tying the game at 17 after redshirt freshman outside hitter Josh Schellinger scored. Selcho followed with an exclamation point kill. The game continued to go back and forth with each team battling the will of the other, but the Tritons took advantage of serving errors from CSUN and were able to convert on their early advantage with a competitive 25–23 victory.

The second set saw a flurry of UCSD energy to start, as the Tritons were not satisfied with the close win in game one. The scoring was opened up by another impressive block by an interior member of the UCSD frontline, junior middle blocker Nick Rigo. Shortly thereafter, one of the biggest rallies of the game was finished off by a kill from Ryan Ka. Despite the great offense, CSUN was beginning to catch up with their blocking, including stopping a dump from UCSD, which showcased their impressive anticipation. 

UCSD ended up losing a lot of their advantage quickly after that ineffective dump, but Boyle’s superior defensive skill resulted in a rally, wherein Boyle set Ka up for a hard shot to the back corner, which CSUN saved but gave Ka a chance at a free ball. Predictably, Ka destroyed the ball and pulled the score back within 1, with the Tritons now only trailing 16–15. UCSD was unable to continue to move forward as they were stymied by CSUN’s serves coming alive, and they dropped the set 25–18.

In the crucial third set, UCSD stayed with the theme and started strong once again. The question was whether they could continue to be solid despite pushes from CSUN or whether they would falter as they did in the second set. The Matadors made their runs and found themselves with an advantage as the third set was nearing a crucial juncture. UCSD made their run just in time with a timely block from Rigo tying the game at 21–21. UCSD conceded 3 in a row after that to be at risk of losing the game, but the Tritons showed their resilience by staying alive with calm bumps and staying fully in-system. A kill from Schellinger made the game truly exciting with the score at 24–23, putting the Tritons within a few points of a stunning comeback. CSUN was able to pull it out despite the valiant effort from the Tritons, placing all the pressure on UCSD coming into the fourth set.

The decisive fourth set saw UCSD start slow for the first time in the match, beginning with a 3–0 deficit. Perhaps this was tactical genius since starting out fast wasn’t that successful in previous sets. UCSD put up a fight and went on a 9–4 run to take the lead, with sophomore setter Gabriel Dyer steadying the ship for the Tritons. UCSD held the advantage for most of the middle game, but suffocating blocking from CSUN catalyzed a run for them, tying the game at 18 and forcing a UCSD timeout. The Tritons unfortunately were unable to get much going for them following the timeout, and two unforced errors in a row gave CSUN a 24–20 match point opportunity. UCSD survived for another point, but lost 25–21, 3–1 overall.

Losing is always a disappointing result, but this young team undoubtedly has loads of potential and will look to make good on their oozing talent when they travel to take on UC Santa Barbara on Friday, March 3. 

Image Courtesy of Millie Root of the UCSD Guardian