The UC San Diego women’s volleyball team captured the NCAA D-II Pacific Region Championship for the first time since 2001 after defeating Cal State San Bernardino 3-1 in San Bernardino. The Tritons, winners of 18 straight, had five players selected to the Pacific Region All-Tournament team. Senior setter Kristin Halvorsen was one of those five after an outstanding three matches, totaling 149 assists with eight aces and 21 digs. The Rohnert Park native now has 1,002 assists, 161 digs, 59 blocks and 45 aces on the season. Halvorsen recently took time before departing for the Elite Eight in Pensacola, Florida, to reflect on UCSD’s Regional Championship and the upcoming matches at the NCAA Volleyball Championship.
Q- Describe your thought process on championship match point.
HALVORSEN- I tried not to panic and serve the ball the same way I had all match. I knew my teammates believed in me and I wanted to serve tough and to the girl I had been serving all match. Once I served, I just played the point out the same way I had all match. I can't think about it being match point because I want to stay calm and not get nervous. I actually kept playing after the whistle, so it took me a minute to realize we had won.
Q- Who was the first person you celebrated with when the final point was recorded?
HALVORSEN- Nicole Courtney. There was a late whistle on match point so I kept playing, but after I set the ball, she jumped on me and I realized they committed an error and we had won.
Q- Looking back at other Regional matches, UCSD went down 2-1 and staved off elimination in games four and five against CSULA. Did you or the team make any changes? What did the team discuss?
HALVORSEN- The fourth and fifth game against L.A. was our chance to show how strong and determined we were. I have never played on a team with so much heart that we can come back after being down 2-1 and win the match. We just stood together before the fourth game and said we were going to have to play together to win this match. We also said that if we weren't going to win the match then we were going to leave everything we had out on the court and know we gave it our best.
Q- You got to play your final collegiate regular season match in your hometown. Was that a special match for you?
HALVORSEN- I couldn't have asked for a better way to end my last season. I got to have a senior night in San Diego with my brother and friends down here and another one with the rest of my family and friends from home. It was also very rewarding to win against Sonoma in their gym after losing to them last year. I don't think the season could have been any better.
Q- UCSD has so many options on the court. Is it difficult to decide whom to set?
HALVORSEN- There are moments when I have a hard time figuring out who to set, especially in first ball opportunities, but for the most part it depends on the pass and flow of the game. I know who's hitting well and who can handle different situations best. I know my teammates and I trust myself to make the right decisions.
Q- Is there a part of your game, that you’ve worked on this year and now you are seeing the improved results?
HALVORSEN- The biggest part of my game is setting. I have worked very hard for the last year to improve my technique and decision making. I watch a lot of film of myself and try to get better everyday. I still have a lot of work to do, but setting is definitely something I have seen a great improvement in.
Q- After winning the first two games against CSUSB in the Regional Final, UCSD dropped the third. Was there anything significant said before game four?
HALVORSEN- There wasn't really anything different said before this game that we don't say before every game. We try to relax and play clean volleyball. We knew we were the better team and we just had to execute on our side of the net.
Q- UCSD had about 75 fans in San Bernardino, being vocal and cheering the team on. How important was that?
HALVORSEN- It is always nice to have fans on your side. The energy they create in the gym is felt on the court and it is always more fun to play in front of a big crowd. A lot of our family members were there as well, which made it that much more special.
Q- The UCSD coaching staff works the team hard in practice. What types of non-physical preparation do you do off the court?
HALVORSEN- We always try to get enough sleep the night before a match and eat the right foods so we have enough energy without feeling hungry during the games. Before the match I try to think about myself doing different skills the right way and being mentally focused. While standing on the end line before we begin, I take some deep breaths and try to get rid of any butterflies.
Q- How are you able to maintain being a successful student-athlete, both in the classroom and on the court? In November, you’ve had a long trip to Humboldt State, three consecutive days of the NCAA Pacific Region, and now nearly a week spent at the NCAA D-II Championships in Pensacola.
HALVORSEN- Being a fifth year communication major makes it a little easier for me to be a student-athlete. I'm almost finished with all my classes so it is easy for me to move my schedule around. We all do a lot of studying on road trips to try and stay on top of our homework. Sometimes the girls will have to take midterms or tests while we are traveling.
Q- What does UCSD have to do this upcoming week to be successful in Pensacola?
HALVORSEN- We have to play our game and stay in the moment. We need to take each match seriously but enjoy every second of this tournament. We play our best game when we are having fun and supporting each other. I have a lot of confidence going into this tournament and I know my team is very capable of winning the Title.