The UC San Diego men's volleyball team heads into its first full home weekend of 2014 following a season-opening stretch of nine of its first 11 matches away from La Jolla. The Tritons play host to two top Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) opponents in No. 5 USC on Friday, Feb. 14, and No. 3 Pepperdine on Saturday, Feb. 15. First serve for both matches inside RIMAC Arena is set for 7 p.m. The Tritons are home for 11 of their last 16 contests.
UCSD students are admitted free to all regular-season home volleyball matches. General admission tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for visiting students, seniors and UCSD Alumni Association members. Tickets are available at the main entrance to RIMAC Arena on the night of the match.
Once again this season, all UCSD home matches inside RIMAC Arena feature a live online video stream with public-address audio. The video is free, but a registration and login are required. A majority of road matches also have video. All contests, home and away, have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page. Follow @UCSDtritons for in-match Twitter updates throughout the season, and @USCmensvolley and @PepperdineMVB this week.
THE CANNED FOOD DRIVE IS ON
The CCAA is holding its annual canned food drive competition during the month of February and all league schools will be collecting canned goods to donate to local service organizations. UC San Diego will once again be participating on behalf of the San Diego Food Bank. Donation bins are currently located in the lobby of the Intercollegiate Athletics suite through Feb. 24. In addition, bins will be present at the following home events:
• Friday, Feb. 14 - men's volleyball vs. USC
• Saturday, Feb. 15 - men's volleyball vs. Pepperdine
• Friday, Feb. 21 - women's/men's basketball vs. San Francisco State
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - baseball vs. Cal Poly Pomona
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - softball vs. Cal State East Bay
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - women's/men's basketball vs. Sonoma State
ABOUT THE TROJANS
No. 5 USC (6-4, 5-4 MPSF) has split its last eight matches since a 3-0 home sweep of UCSD in the first meeting between the sides, alternating a win followed by a loss. The Trojans are coming off of a season-long four-match homestand, and most recently, were downed in straight sets by rival UCLA on Sunday. USC plays at No. 9 UC Irvine on Thursday night prior to coming to La Jolla. Freshman outside hitter Lucas Yoder, who has extensive bloodlines in the Trojan system, leads the team offensively with 153 kills (3.92/set), though senior opposite Tanner Jansen had a match-high 16 in his first start this season against UCLA, and averages 4.20 kills per set. Junior co-captain Micah Christenson is the top setter the MPSF at 11.72 assists per set. Senior libero Henry Cassiday, like Christenson a native of Hawaii, paces the league in digs (119, 3.05/set). Bill Ferguson is in his eighth year as the head coach at USC.
USC leads the all-time series, 39-8, including a 3-0 victory at the Galen Center in this season's first meeting back on Jan. 10. UCSD did, however, sweep the season series in 2013 for the first time in program history. The Tritons produced their first-ever three-set sweep of the Trojans at RIMAC Arena in both teams' 2013 conference opener on Jan. 10. That result snapped a seven-match win streak in the series for USC. UCSD then edged the Trojans in a thriller at USC's Lyon Center, 3-2, on March 16, out-blocking the home side, 20.0-13.0. Of the Tritons' eight all-time wins over the Trojans, four each have come in La Jolla and Los Angeles.
ABOUT THE WAVES
No. 3 Pepperdine (6-2, 6-2 MPSF) is coming off of a three-match homestand and had its two-match win streak snapped by a five-set home defeat to UC Santa Barbara on Saturday. The Waves, favored to place sixth in the MPSF race, are currently in third. They play at No. 9 UC Irvine on Friday night prior to taking on the Tritons. Junior outside hitter Josh Taylor is putting down 4.65 kills per set, second in the MPSF. Legendary head coach Marv Dunphy is in his 31st season in charge at Pepperdine.
Pepperdine leads the all-time series, 43-3, and has won five straight since a 3-2 Triton triumph in Malibu on March 12, 2011, including a 3-0 home sweep in this season's first meeting on Jan. 11. UCSD had previously taken both ends of the 2010 season series. Both match-ups in 2013 also ended in sweeps for the Waves.
UCSD has played only twice at home over its first 11 matches ... After being listed among several teams receiving votes just outside of the top 15 in the first three AVCA national polls, including the preseason edition, UCSD has not appeared the last four weeks ... UCSD was picked to finish 12th in the 2014 MPSF race in the conference's preseason coaches' poll, with reigning MPSF champion BYU and 2013 league runner-up Long Beach State joint favorites ... Senior setter Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) is No. 8 on the all-time Triton list with 1,576 career assists ... A program-high seven Tritons earned MPSF All-Academic distinction in 2013, including returners Brunsting, now a two-time selection, junior Garrett Dempsey and senior Fred Stahl ... Brunsting is the only current UCSD player with a double-double, with two for his career (1/14/12 vs. NJIT: 55 assists and 12 digs; 2/8/13 at UOP: 46 assists and 15 digs).
Outside hitter Nick Iorfino has a team-best four double-digit kills performances on the year, with a season-best 14 kills at Pacific (2/8), 12 at California Baptist (1/16) and a match-high 12 more at Hawai'i (1/26). Opposite and fellow senior Johl Awerkamp has two, with a season-high 18 kills at CBU. Iorfino and Awerkamp have 18 and 14 such matches, respectively, for their Triton careers. The only other double-digit kills efforts so far in 2014 have come from redshirt junior Scot Metzger with a career-high 17 at Pacific, Brunsting with 11 vs. UCLA (1/30), and redshirt freshman middle blocker Mathew Schnitzer with 13 vs. CBU.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD lost in straight sets at seventh-ranked Stanford last Friday, Feb. 7, with the Cardinal serving 12 aces. The Tritons then took the opening game at Pacific the following night, 25-22, only to ultimately fall to the Tigers in four.
REPEAT BEST-EVER SHOWING AT ASICS INVITE
For the second straight year and fourth time in the last five, UCSD opened its season at the annual UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational. With a format change and 10 teams present for the 50th installment, the Tritons came away with a second successive best-ever fourth-place effort. UCSD went 2-2 in best-of-three-set pool-play exhibitions on Jan. 3, with those contests not counting against overall records. The Tritons were the only squad to take a set that day off of eventual tourney champion Long Beach State. On tiebreakers, UCSD placed second in Pool B and matched up with eighth-ranked host UCSB in the third-place match on Jan. 4, losing 3-0. Awerkamp was named to the All-Tournament Team. Eight Tritons made their college debuts.
Team tri-captains for the 2014 season were designated as Awerkamp, Brunsting and Metzger. All three veteran Tritons are first-time captains.
UCSD returns 10 players, including two redshirt freshmen and one injury redshirt (Metzger), from the 2013 campaign. Among the contingent back are Brunsting and Dempsey at the setter position. Awerkamp and Iorfino are two of UCSD's top attackers. Stahl was 12th in the league at 1.04 blocks per set as a junior middle in 2013.
The 2014 roster includes 12 new players to the program, including 11 freshmen. Seven members of that group have earned their collegiate debuts. Most recently, freshman middle blocker Shayne Beamer appeared vs. UCLA (1/30). Freshman middle blocker Jackson Wopat is the younger brother of Carly Wopat, who completed her senior season at Stanford in December as a two-time AVCA first-team All-American. Wopat made his first career appearance in his hometown at UC Santa Barbara (Dos Pueblos HS) on Jan. 4. In addition to Poway product Brunsting, one other San Diego native is freshman middle Bryan Zhu, a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School.
HEAD COACH KEVIN RING
Kevin Ring is in his ninth season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has a 66-175 overall record at the helm. Before being elevated to the head-coaching position on June 15, 2005, Ring spent the previous nine years as an assistant for the UCSD men's squad. He got his start at UCSD as the men's volleyball team manager from 1989-91 before playing for the Tritons for three seasons. Ring was the full-time manager for the USA men's national team from 1991-93 and continued on as a technical advisor through 1996. He accompanied Team USA to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The 1992 squad left Spain with a bronze medal. To this day, Ring maintains strong ties to USA Volleyball, as he has been aiding women's national team head coach Karch Kiraly and his staff in preparing Team USA for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
UCSD Athletics has partnered with Advanced-Online to provide a web-based, on-demand option for UCSD apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours. Visit the site at UCSDTritonsGear.com.
UCSD is back on the road next week, playing at No. 13 Cal State Northridge on Wednesday, Feb. 19, and No. 6 Long Beach State on Friday, Feb. 21, both at 7 p.m.