SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - The No. 12 UC San Diego women's volleyball team saw its season come to an end Friday as it was swept by fourth-ranked BYU-Hawaii in a NCAA Division II West Regional semifinal match at Cal State San Bernardino's Coyote Den.
Scores of the competitive match were 25-23, 25-20 and 25-22.
UCSD, the region's third seed, concluded its year at 26-6 overall. Second-seeded BYU-Hawaii improved to 26-1 and will face Cal State San Bernardino, the top seed, in the West Region championship contest Saturday at 7 p.m.
"BYU-Hawaii is a really consistent team and constantly puts pressure on the opponent," said UCSD head coach Ricci Luyties. "If you’re not at the top of your game and doing a lot of the right things, they’re going to beat you. We were just off a little bit. It wasn’t like we played terribly, but we weren’t playing as well as we could and that’s what’s going to happen - you’re going to lose some close games."
Junior opposite hitter Caitlin Brenton led UCSD in point production, totaling 11.5 on nine kills and four blocks (one solo). She also added an assist and seven digs. Middle blocker Sara McCutchan and outside hitter Sophie Rowe each finished with 10.0 points and eight kills. Rowe also had 12 digs and McCutchan had four block assists.
UCSD senior libero Brittany Lombardi had a match-high 19 digs, giving her 644 for the year, a new California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) single season record. She eclipsed the old mark of 641, set in 2007.
Lombardi and McCutchan were named to the NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team.
BYU-Hawaii was led by outside hitter Shih Ting Chen, the Daktronics West Region Player of the Year. Chen led all players with 19.0 points and 16 kills, also collecting two assists, two aces, 11 digs and a solo block. Setter Ying Chun Chen also recorded a double-double with 37 assists and 14 digs.
"BYU is young, but they play like a veteran team," said Luyties. "Nothing rattles them. Whether they’re up or down, they play with the same emotion and don’t really have the peaks and valleys that a lot of other teams do. We needed to match that and it just wasn’t quite there tonight."
UCSD hit just .134 (37-19-134), its second-lowest attack percentage of the year. BYU-Hawaii countered at .222 (48-18-135).
"We had a lot of scoring opportunities, but we didn’t convert on them," said Luyties. "That’s the difference of running off a few points in a row or getting back to where you’re receiving serve and giving up a couple. When you play a team like BYU, you really have to take advantage of all of those opportunities."
UCSD out-blocked BYU-Hawaii, 9-5, while the Seasiders aced the Tritons five times.
The first set proved to be the most competitive with seven tie scores and four lead changes. BYU-Hawaii got out to an 11-5 lead, but UC San Diego won eight of the next 10 points to tie it up at 13-13. With the Tritons up 23-22, the Seasiders tallied three straight points to take the set.
BYU-Hawaii controlled most of the second frame, out-hitting UCSD .361 to .111. The Seasiders won eight of the first 11 points and the Tritons could not climb back into it.
It was a different story in the third set as UCSD came out hot and took a 7-3 lead. However, it didn't take long for the Seasiders to regroup and a Shih Ting Chen kill tied it at 8-8. BYU-Hawaii built its lead to as many as six points. At 23-17, the Tritons put together a five-point run to get back within one at 23-22. Danielle Dahle (La Mesa/Grossmont HS) had a pair of kills during the stretch. However, the Seasiders closed out the match by winning the next two points, the first on blocks by Noel Pauga and Erica Willes and the last on a hitting error by the Tritons.
It is the second straight year that BYU-Hawaii has put an end to UC San Diego's season. In 2012, the Seasiders defeated the Tritons, 3-1, in a West Regional quarterfinal in Laie on the North Shore of Oahu. The all-time series between the two squads is now even at 3-3.
It was the first time the Tritons had been swept since the 2012 season.
UCSD was playing in its eighth consecutive NCAA postseason. The Tritons have earned a postseason berth in 32 of the last 33 years.
"In looking at our team, I can’t be more happy about the way we played all year - there was never a time when I saw the team quit, there was never a time when I saw them give up on each other," said Luyties. "We have a lot to look forward to next year with most of our players coming back. However, we had high expectations for ourselves and it’s disappointing to lose tonight, but I think overall, we have to be happy with how the season went."
Cal State San Bernardino earned its spot in Saturday's West Region title match by sweeping fourth-seeded Sonoma State Friday night.
The winner of Saturday's regional title match advances to the NCAA Elite Eight, which will be held Dec. 12-14 at the U.S. Cellular Center Arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.