Ryan Ka Shines as Tritons Secure Senior Night Victory

Sanaya Vakharia, Contributing Writer

In a thrilling Senior Night face-off against UC Santa Barbara (5–16, 1–7 Big West), UC San Diego’s (8–14, 2–6 Big West) men’s volleyball steered through with a jaw-dropping victory after winning the final set. This was an essential game in many ways: it was the final home match for the Tritons’ volleyball this season, and a victory would even out the score with UCSB after their close victory earlier this year. 


The event kicked off by celebrating the three seniors – Ryan Ka, Berkeley Miesfeld, and Michael Urdahl which resulted in loud applause from the crowds. 


As the game started, the Gauchos were quick to take the lead with a kill within the first few seconds — and two more right after, widening their lead to 3–0. The Tritons tried bouncing back with a kill by redshirt freshman outside hitter Josh Schellinger, but their attempt was stopped when opposite hitter Meisfeld made a service error. However, the Gauchos also made a service error, evening it out. The two teams continued exchanging points until finally UCSD equalized at 8–8 and took the lead right after with Schellinger’s brilliant kill. The two teams kept scoring and conceding points, showing amazing attacking and defending, keeping the score tight until 20–22, after which the Tritons showed no hesitation in winning the remaining 3 points, and hence, the first set, as well, which ended at 20–25. 


The second set began with UCSB’s serve, but the first point went to UCSD with another kill by the redshirt freshman middle blocker, Jim Garrison. However, the score was soon equalized at 1–1 by UCSB. The second set was an impressive performance for both teams, but UCSB was able to keep the Tritons at a distance, especially with their 5–0 run that gave them a strong advantage. The Tritons inched closer and cut it to 2 at 21–19, but multiple hitting mistakes from the Tritons did them in, giving the Gauchos the set by a score of 25–20. 


UCSD started off the third with a service error, giving the first point to UCSB. However, immediately after, the star redshirt senior outside hitter Ryan Ka quickly caught up. UCSB was back in the lead, but UCSD successfully chased them to equalize again. This alternating of points went on until UCSD’s Ka made an attack error and UCSB widened their gap to 5–3. However, Ka made up for it with another stunning kill, and the Tritons equalized when UCSB made an attacking error. The cat-and-mouse point chase went on for a while with attacks, attack errors, and service errors bringing the score to 18–16, after which UCSB scored four consecutive points to extend their lead. The Tritons attempted to make a comeback with a kill by Ka but UCSB quickly took another point, rendering their attempt in vain. UCSD still tried to work their way to a win but the gap was already too big to successfully catch up. The set ended in a victory for the Gauchos with 25–19. 


The fourth set was essential for both teams: a victory for UCSB would mean they’d win the match, but a victory for UCSD would still keep them in contention. With this in mind, UCSD was quick to take the first three points and develop a decent lead. Both teams, as per usual, kept winning and conceding points but UCSD emerged with a 10-point lead, with the score being 20–10. After this, the set was pretty much in UCSD’s hand, and they secured a staggering win with a 25–14 scoreline. 


After winning the fourth set in such a commanding fashion, the Tritons had all the energy on their end. With the crowd on their side, it seemed like the Tritons were destined to get out to a hot start in the deciding, and nerve-racking, fifth set. 


Instead, the opposite happened. The Tritons began with a failed serve from Schellinger, and two kills in a row put the Gauchos up 3–0, reminiscent of the first set where the Tritons got out to a slow start. Sensing blood in the water, the Gauchos silenced the crowd with an ace, putting them up 4–0 and putting the Tritons in a dire situation. 


This is where the team’s growth became evident, as the young team that perhaps would have folded before, dug in their heels. After going down 6–1, the Tritons uncorked a timely 6–0 run that had them, astoundingly, back in the lead. After the kill by Ka, the crowd and team were both extremely engaged. 


Each team traded points until the Tritons won the battle of attrition, as UCSB made consecutive hits out of bounds to award the Tritons a 13–10 lead. After UCSB responded, another kill from Ka put the Tritons in position to close the game out, with the score standing at 14–12. The Gauchos stayed alive with a powerful kill to close the gap, but the Tritons made sure to stop them in their tracks and win off yet another kill from Ka, 15–13. 


After the game, The UCSD Guardian reached out to Ka, who definitely played a huge role in the Tritons’ victory. He was responsible for 28 out of the 58 attacks by UCSD. On being asked if there was anything he would do differently in the game, despite the admirable result, he said “I think we kind of dropped the ball in the second set, I think we definitely kind of just lost the mindset and pulled back a little bit. I think just having that confidence in ourselves to keep pushing through it and just believe in ourselves.”


The Tritons will look to build off a victory in this back-and-forth affair by getting some wins in their final two matchups of the season. They will be up against the very talented University of Hawaii team on Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th in Honolulu as this developing Tritons team will look to continue their momentum into next season.