LONG BEACH, Calif. - Sixth-ranked Long Beach State, the preseason co-favorite in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), was too hot to handle in a 3-0 defeat of UC San Diego in men’s volleyball Friday night at the Walter Pyramid. Scores were 25-11, 25-15, 25-16.
UCSD (0-15, 0-14 MPSF) was led by senior Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) with nine kills and five digs. Senior outside hitter Nick Iorfino and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Eric Barber added seven kills apiece, while redshirt freshman middle blocker Mathew Schnitzer had six kills on .556 hitting (6-1-9).
Long Beach State (9-4, 8-4 MPSF) swept the weekend to kick off a season-long eight-match homestand following another 3-0 victory over two-time defending national champion UC Irvine on Wednesday night. The 49ers hit .556 (11-1-18) in the first set and .583 (16-2-24) in the third. The teams will meet again in La Jolla on March 27.
UCSD held brief, narrow leads of 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 in the opening set on kills by Barber, Iorfino and Schnitzer, and a 49er service error, before the home side gradually took control. A 5-0 run made it 9-5 and forced a timeout. At 13-8, LBSU tallied the next four points and 12 of 15 to take it. Dalton Ammerman produced a kill and a service to account for the final two points.
LBSU scored the first three points of the second game. The Tritons were still within striking distance at 17-14 after three points in a row, all on awry 49er attacks, but a 6-0 streak by Long Beach State stretched the margin too far.
In the third, LBSU got out to a 7-1 advantage and cruised from there. Reigning AVCA National Player of the Year Taylor Crabb’s 10th kill of the night came on match point. Ammerman joined him in double figures with a match-high 11 kills.
The Tritons completed the match with zero service aces and one solo block, by Iorfino in the first, to seven aces and 9.0 total team blocks by the 49ers.
LBSU had a triple block in each of the first two frames, with Ammerman, Taylor Gregory and All-American setter Connor Olbright teaming up on both. Gregory wound up with six total blocks to lead all players. Olbright had 36 assists, six digs and four block assists for the visitors, while junior Triton setter Garrett Dempsey collected 27 assists.
“When you play a top-caliber team, you’ve got to keep your strengths as strengths,” remarked ninth-year Triton head coach Kevin Ring. “Tonight, I felt like LBSU was able to pressure us into making uncharacteristic plays. As the season moves forward, we need improved consistency, as well as a level of competitive maturity, so we can bring out our best against the best.
UCSD returns home for a pair of matches next weekend. The Tritons briefly dip out of conference play to take on Grand Canyon on Friday, Feb. 28, before resuming MPSF activity against UC Santa Barbara the following night. Both matches inside RIMAC Arena are set for a 7 p.m. first serve.