Photo by: Jimmy Gekas/Sideline Studios
The Tritons will take on No. 24 Alaska Anchorage to open the Phoenix Inn GNAC Challenge this weekend.
No. 8 UCSD Heads to Oregon To Kickoff 2010 Campaign
Release: Wednesday 09/01/2010 

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The Ricci Luyties era officially begins this week, as the eighth-ranked UC San Diego women's volleyball team opens the 2010 season at the Phoenix Inn GNAC Conference Challenge in Monmouth, Ore.

The new look Tritons will play four times in two days beginning with a matchup against No. 24 Alaska Anchorage Friday at 10:00 a.m. UCSD will then face Central Washington Friday at 5:00 p.m., before clashing with Western Washington and tournament host Western Oregon on Saturday. Those match times are slated for 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., respectively.

The story at the outset of the season is definitely Luyties, who enters his first year at the helm after Tom Black left to take the head job at Loyola Marymount last winter. Following a successful stint at Southern Mississippi -- where he led the Golden Eagles to the program's first Conference USA title in 2009 -- Luyties inherits a team that went 29-3 a year ago and finished with an impressive 20-2 tally in the California Collegiate Athletic Association standings.

"From what I've seen in practice so far, I think we can be really good this season," Luyties said. "Obviously we want to compete for a CCAA Championship and, if we stay healthy, I think we can go deep into the tournament when the postseason rolls around."  

The Tritons, ranked eighth in the current AVCA preseason poll, will be without the services of All-Americans Sylvia Schmidt and Elaine Chen in 2010, but have plenty of pieces to fill the void. Roxanne Brunsting, who also earned AVCA All-American accolades as a libero last season, will be moving to outside hitter to start her junior campaign. Brunsting tallied a total of 494 digs in 2009, the second highest total in program history. Junior Janessa Werhane has been handling libero duties thus far.

Also returning in 2010 is outside hitter Katie Condon and opposite Hillary Williamson, both of whom put together tremendous sophomore campaigns a year ago. Condon was second on the team with 251 kills, while Williamson's 221 total ranked third. Luyties also has three talented middle blockers returning this season in seniors Audrey Green and Cara Simonsen, and sophomore Julia Freidenberg. Led by Freidenberg's 52, the trio combined for a total of 113 blocks in 2009.

UCSD will welcome in a talented crop of newcomers this season, as well, including true freshmen Lizzy Andrews, Rachelle Kinney, Brittany Lombardi, Sara McCutchan, Edrina Nazaradeh and Sally Yingst.

The Phoenix Inn GNAC Challenge will feature a total of eight teams, including four that are ranked in the top 25 in the preseason poll. Along with UCSD and Alaska Anchorage, No. 2 Cal State San Bernardino and No. 10 Metro State will also be competing in Oregon.

"This weekend will definitely be a good test for us," Luyties continued. "If we come prepared and we're ready to play, I think we'll be in good shape. Every team we'll face has talent, so we just need to play like we're capable of playing."

Over the past six seasons, UCSD has gone an impressive 38-5 in early season tournament play. The Tritons went 8-0 in nonconference action in 2009, posting perfect 4-0 records at both the Wildcat Open in Michigan and the Triton Invitational at RIMAC. 

Following this weekend's contests, the Tritons will return to La Jolla to begin CCAA play next weekend. UCSD will host Humboldt State in its home opener on September 10, before entertaining Sonoma State the following night. 

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