SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - UC San Diego and Grand Canyon hadn't met in a volleyball match since 2005, but the layoff didn't seem to matter much to the 15th-ranked Tritons as they swept the Antelopes Thursday in a first round contest at the NCAA West Regional at Coussoulis Arena.
UCSD, playing in its sixth consecutive NCAA postseason, smashed 47 kills to GCU's 31 to win fairly easily by scores of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-21. The Tritons move on to Fridays semifinals with a 22-5 overall record, while the Antelopes finished their 2011 campaign at 22-7.
The second seed at the West Regional, UC San Diego will take on 23rd-ranked and third-seeded Sonoma State Friday at 5 p.m. in a semifinal match at Coussoulis Arena. The Seawolves dispatched sixth-seeded Hawaii Hilo, 3-1, in Thursday's first match.
Senior Hillary Williamson, recently named First Team All-CCAA and a Daktronics West Region All-Star, totaled a match co-high 11 kills for the Tritons. She entered the night needing just two put-aways for 1,000 in her career and it didn't take long. Her 999th kill came on the second play of the match, putting UCSD up 2-0. Down 9-8 a few plays later, the outside hitter's 1,000th kill tied the first set at 9-9 and the Tritons would not trail again.
The second set remained tight early until UCSD started opening up a lead with a five-point spurt to take a 13-9 lead. Sara McCutchan, who finished with a career-high 11 kills, had a pair of kills in the onslaught. The Tritons upped their lead to nine points late, but the Antelopes strung together five consecutive points to get within four at 23-19. However, back-to-back kills by Natasha Wilroy and McCutchan, both off sets from Brunsting, put UCSD up 2-0 in sets.
Set number three was quite different as UCSD played from behind, sometimes by as many as three points, for most of the first half. Down by a four-point deficit at 15-11, the Tritons rolled off three unanswered points due to two kills by Katie Condon and blocks from Condon and Julia Freidenberg. UC San Diego took its first lead of the set at 20-19 on a McCutchan put-down. Grand Canyon was flat after that as UCSD took over with a service ace, a block by Williamson and Lauren Demos as well as a kill each for them.
Williamson is just the second Triton in program history to finish a career with at least 1,000 digs and 1,000 kills. Stacy Dunsmore recorded 1,195 digs and 1,182 kills from 2001-04.
It's been a season of high marks for Tritons as setter Roxanne Brunsting recently got her 1,000th career assist to go along with her 1,582 career digs. Libero Janessa Werhane joined the club by digging her 1,000th ball earlier in the season. Up next should be Condon, who has registered 992 career kills after adding seven against Grand Canyon tonight.
The Antelopes had no players with 10 or more kills as Janae Giles topped out at nine. Stephanie McBride had seven blocks to lead all players and Mackenzie Phelps recorded a match-best 23 digs.
The Tritons out-hit the Antelopes .184 (47-21-141) to .124 (31-16-121), but GCU held the edge in blocks at nine to six and owned a better serve perentage at .935 to UCSD's .918.
UCSD is now 14-1 all-time against Grand Canyon, located in Phoenix, Ariz. The last time the two teams played was Sept. 8, 2005 when UC San Diego logged a 3-1 win. The Tritons have won the last nine match-ups against the 'Lopes, with Grand Canyon's lone win of the series coming in November of 2000.
CCAA rivals UC San Diego and Sonoma State have met twice already this season, splitting the regular season league matches. On Oct. 1, the Seawolves took a 3-1 victory in Rohnert Park, while the Tritons avenged the loss with a 3-0 sweep at RIMAC Arena on Nov. 4.
In 2010, the two league foes met up in the first round of the NCAA West Regional at Cal State San Bernardino. The Tritons swept that match to move on to the seminfinals against the host Coyotes.
UCSD leads the all-time series against Sonoma State by a hefty 24-6 advantage and has won six of the last seven contests.
In Thursday's late matches, fourth-seeded BYU-Hawaii beat fifth-seeded Seattle Pacific in four sets and top seed Cal State San Bernardino remained undefeated with a 3-1 victory against Alaska Anchorage, the eighth seed. CSUSB and BYUH will play in Friday's second semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
The West Regional championship match will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at Coussoulis Arena with the winner advancing to the NCAA Championships Dec. 1-3.
- UCSDtritons.com -