LAIE, Hawaii - A fourth set comeback fell just short and the UC San Diego women's volleyball team saw its season end Thursday as host BYU-Hawaii held on for a 3-1 victory in a NCAA West Regional quarterfinal match.
Scores from the Cannon Activities Center on Oahu's North Shore went 25-21, 23-25, 25-17 and 25-22 in favor of BYU-Hawaii, the nation's fifth-ranked team and the tournament's top seed.
Eighth-seeded UCSD, competing in NCAA postseason play for the seventh consecutive season, wrapped up its campaign with a 20-11 overall record. The Seasiders improved to 22-3 and will take on No. 15 Western Washington in a semifinal match Friday evening.
"We battled and I'm really proud of the team and how they fought through the whole match, but we gave up a couple of runs of points and never recovered from them," said UCSD head coach Ricci Luyties. "We let them get out to a lead and they were just too strong a team to give a four or five point lead to in the middle of a game."
Both squads played a solid defensive match as BYU-Hawaii finished with 75 digs, just one more than UC San Diego. However, the Seasiders put away 69 kills to the Tritons' 49 and out-hit their opponent .231 (69-23-199) to .155 (49-22-174).
"We dug a lot of balls and played good defense," said Luyties. "We just didn't score on a lot of the plays that we had chances to. Had we done that, it would have changed the outcome of the match."
Freshman outside hitter Sophie Rowe was a force for the Tritons, collecting 20 kills, 16 digs, an ace and a block to finish with a team-high 21.5 points. She hit .364 with four errors in 44 attack attempts. Sophomore middle Sara McCutchan put down 11 kills and made only one error in 27 swings, good for a .370 attack. She also added a team-best five blocks. Junior libero Brittany Lombardi led all players with 23 digs.
BYU-Hawaii, which went undefeated (16-0) in the PacWest Conference, got 21 kills apiece from Shih Ting Chen and Lauren Hagemeyer. Chen completed a double-double by also contributing 16 digs. Three other Seasiders had 10 or more digs, including Ying Chun Chen (17), Melanie Manutal (16) and Joyceann Feletoa (12). Ying Chun Chen, a sophomore setter recently named the Daktronics West Region Player of the Year, paced the offense with 60 assists.
UC San Diego tried its best to force a fifth and deciding set. Down 10-8 in the fourth frame, the Tritons ran off three straight points to take an 11-10 lead. Rowe produced a kill and an ace during the sequence. BYU-Hawaii responded by winning seven of the next eight points, which resulted in a 17-12 lead. Finding itself in a deep hole trailing 21-16, UCSD took a timeout and returned to explode for five consecutive points, evening up the set at 21-21. Four of the points came off of kills by Rowe. However, UCSD's momentum came to a screeching halt as the Seasiders took four of the final five points to close out the match. Shih Ting Chen ripped three kills in the final push.
The Tritons hit .302 (17-4-43) in the fourth stanza, their highest single set attack percentage of the match. However, the Seasiders answered with their best attack of the night as well, swinging at .383 (20-2-47).
An early four-point run in the opening set put BYU-Hawaii up 6-3 and it would not relinquish its lead the rest of the way.
Set number two was similar, except the early run went to UCSD. Down 6-4, the Tritons won six straight points, four coming off of consecutive hitting errors by the Seasiders. UC San Diego held its lead until the end, but not without trouble. Several times BYU-Hawaii got within one point, the last coming at 24-23. West Region Freshman of the Year Danielle Dahle pounded a kill to get UCSD the win and even the match at one set each.
In the third set, the teams stayed within two points of each other until the Seasiders, trailing 8-6, erupted to collect nine straight points and go up by a score of 15-8. A later four point run widened the margin to 10 points at 23-13. The deficit was too much for the Tritons to come back from.
UCSD had a good service night, holding a sizable advantage in serve percentage (.965 to .907). The Tritons made just three errors from the line while the Seasiders had nine.
BYUH totaled 11 blocks to UCSD's eight.
"BYU is a good team, they have some really good players out there," said Luyties. "I thought we matched up well against them but we just needed a couple of those missed points to go our way."
Friday's semifinal between BYU-Hawaii and Western Washington is set for a 7:30 p.m. (HST) start. WWU advanced by sweeping California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) member Sonoma State in the quarterfinals.
The other semi will feature 20th-ranked Grand Canyon against CCAA champion Cal State San Bernardino, with first serve scheduled for 5 p.m. (HST) Friday. GCU defeated the CCAA's San Francisco State in five sets, while No. 22 CSUSB slid past Central Washington, 3-2, to earn a spot in the semifinals.
The West Regional title match will take place on Saturday at 7 p.m. (HST). The winner advances to the Elite Eight, hosted by West Florida Dec. 6-8 in Pensacola, Fla.
-- UCSDtritons.com --