LA JOLLA, Calif. - UC San Diego put together a record hitting night in overwhelming UC Merced in non-conference men’s volleyball Saturday at RIMAC Arena. Set scores were 25-13, 25-10 and 25-11 in a match that lasted a mere 57 minutes.
The Tritons hit .554 (39-8-56) as a team, the program’s highest percentage in both college volleyball’s rally-scoring era since 2011, and the NCAA Division II era since the 2001 season. It is quite possibly an all-time school standard. The only other time since 2001 that UCSD eclipsed the .500 mark in attack rate was in another 3-0 home win, against Princeton on Jan. 27, 2010. The Tritons hit .518 that night (53-10-83).
UCSD improved to 3-22 overall with the victory. UC Merced concluded its inaugural season of men’s volleyball as an independent member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) at 4-13. Saturday was the teams’ first-ever meeting.
In addition to the hitting percentage, the Tritons also turned in a season-high 11 service aces, their largest total since reaching 11 in a 3-1 home upset of then-third-ranked Ohio State on March 24, 2011. Kirill Rudenko entered the match with four aces on the year and served a match-high five on the night. Former star setter Phil Bannan last posted five aces in a match at UC Irvine on Jan. 12, 2011.
Senior opposite Johl Awerkamp added three aces of his own to go along with two block assists and a match-high nine kills. Eric Barber, like Rudenko a redshirt sophomore outside hitter, collected eight kills on .700 (8-1-10) hitting off the bench. Rudenko added five kills and season bests of five digs and two blocks.
UC Merced scored the first point of the night on a combination block and held leads of 2-1 and 3-1 through two more Triton hitting errors before a three-point run from two Awerkamp kills and a Scot Metzger kill put UCSD on top, 4-3. Following one final deadlock at 4-4 on a bad serve, the home side was never challenged again. The first timeout of the evening at 12-6 preceded a set-clinching 6-0 stretch for 18-7.
The Tritons got out to leads of 8-1 in each of the next two frames. The early run in that final set was capped by three straight Barber kills, with back-to-back overpasses expertly handled. Rudenko served a pair of aces during his five-point rotation around Barber’s efforts, for 5-1 and 9-1 after a UCM timeout.
Samuel Hala’ufia paced the Bobcats with eight kills and four blocks, while fellow freshman Daniel Sabzehzar contributed five kills and four blocks of his own.
UCSD concludes a season-long six-match homestand and its 2014 campaign with two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches next Friday, April 11, against Pacific, and the following night versus Stanford. First serves are slated for 7 p.m. inside RIMAC Arena.