SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC San Diego men’s volleyball team was beaten 3-0 by eighth-ranked host UC Santa Barbara in the third-place match of the 50th UCSB Asics Invitational Saturday inside Rob Gym. Set scores were 25-23, 25-11, 25-16.
The Tritons thus repeated their program-best fourth-place finish from a year ago at the top lid-lifter annually on the collegiate men’s volleyball calendar. The match served as the season opener for both sides after UCSD (0-1) had gone an even 2-2 in four best-of-three exhibitions on Friday’s first day of the tourney.
The Gauchos (1-0) trotted out to a 7-1 advantage in the first set. A late run of five straight points pulled UCSD to within just a single point at 20-19. Still down by one at 24-23, a Triton attack error gave the home side the opening-set win.
UCSB produced a quick start to the second frame as well, taking an 8-2 lead before extending to its first double-digit bulge of the night at 13-3 on a service ace by standout sophomore setter Jonah Seif. The Gaucho advantage was at its largest at 14 at the end of the set following back-to-back combination blocks by Seif and Ryan Thompson. UCSB out-hit the Tritons, .364 to -.125.
After UCSD took its first leads of the contest early in the third set at 1-0 and 2-1, the Gauchos registered three straight points to answer. Another four-point run, three from Triton errors and one from a Jake Staahl ace, made it 8-3 in favor of the hosts. Three more points in succession necessitated UCSD head coach Kevin Ring’s second and final timeout, down 14-6. UCSB cruised from there to complete the sweep.
Ring used all 14 of his players in uniform. Nick Iorfino and Johl Awerkamp were UCSD’s offensive leaders with seven and five kills, respectively. A third senior, Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School), finished with 12 assists before junior Garrett Dempsey (six assists) took over setting duties for the third set. Senior middle Fred Stahl had four total blocks.
Mathew Schnitzer made his official collegiate debut as a starter at middle blocker, as did fellow redshirt freshman Ganesh Elie, redshirt sophomore Eric Barber, true freshmen Ian Colbert, Griffin Galvin, Bryan Lee and Jackson Wopat, and sophomore Russia native Kirill Rudenko. Junior Scot Metzger made his return to competition as a Triton starter after having to sit out the 2013 season through injury. Lee had a team-high seven digs, with Colbert adding five digs off the bench.
UCSB made just six errors over its final 42 swings for the final two sets, winding up with a hitting percentage of .267 on the night. The Gauchos had 10 aces to just one by the Tritons and held a 14.0-8.0 blocking advantage at the net. Matt Hanley collected match highs of 10 kills and nine digs. Seif led all players with 30 assists, four aces and seven total blocks, though Thompson equaled him in the blocks category.
Awerkamp was later named to the nine-player All-Tournament Team. Fourth-ranked Long Beach State downed upstart Harvard, 3-1, in the championship match, with 49er outside hitter Dalton Ammerman earning Tournament MVP distinction.
UCSD opens the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) portion of its 2014 schedule on the road next weekend at USC (Jan. 10) and Pepperdine (Jan. 11).