Photo by: Jimmy Gekas/Sideline Studios
Sophomore Sara McCutchan had 10 kills and a career-high five blocks in the Western New Mexico match.
No. 17 UCSD Splits Opening Day Pair in Phoenix
Release: Friday 08/31/2012 

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Ranked 17th in the nation, the UC San Diego women's volleyball team opened its 2012 season with a split in day one action at the Grand Canyon University Invitational. The Tritons outlasted Western New Mexico to take a five-set victory before falling to Grand Canyon, 3-1.

UC San Diego 3, Western New Mexico 2
The match was back-and-forth with UCSD winning sets one, three and five and WNMU taking sets two and four. Final scores were 25-19, 23-25, 25-23, 21-25 and 15-11 in favor of the Tritons, who are 1-0 on the young season. The Mustangs fell to 0-2 as they were defeated by host Grand Canyon in five sets earlier in the day.

A pair of freshmen outside hitters stepped up big in their first collegiate match. La Mesa native Danielle Dahle led all players with 18 kills and racked up a double-double by adding 17 digs. She hit .327 with just two errors in a match-high 49 attack attempts. Classmate Sophie Rowe was just behind with 17 kills while also chipping in with three assists, eight digs and three blocks.

UCSD also got solid play out of a pair of sophomores. Middle blocker Sara McCutchan hit .400 with 10 kills, three service aces and a career- and match-high five blocks, while opposite Rachelle Kinney swung at .429 with a career-best 11 kills and three blocks.

Sophomore setter Amber Hawthorne amassed 37 assists and freshman Heidi Sierks added 16 more while leading the Tritons to a .295 (65-19-156) hitting percentage. Sierks converted on 44% of her set attempts. Junior libero Brittany Lombardi finished with a match-best 20 digs, just three under her career-high.

The Mustangs were led by a quartet of players with 10 or more kills, including Angelina Pulu (17), Ziona Verhulsdonk (14), Lauren Buseman (10) and Seluia Falealili (10). Pulu had a double-double with 19 digs and Kassie Kagawa totaled 18 scoops.

UCSD held a slight 7-6 advantage in aces and out-blocked WNMU by one, 8-7. The Mustangs led in the digs department, 64-58, and hit .243 (62-25-152) for the match.

"We were tested right away, that's for sure," said third-year head coach Ricci Luyties. "We played a little nervous at times, but that's to be expected with all of the freshmen playing. Danielle (Dahle) was very steady throughout and Heidi (Sierks) set a nice offense when she got her chance to go in."

Grand Canyon 3, UC San Diego 1
Dahle came up big again with a team-high 15 kills, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Tritons' attack percentage fell to .192.

GCU won by scores of 25-20, 22-25, 25-12 and 28-26. UCSD dropped to 1-1 while the 'Lopes remained perfect at 2-0.

Dahle recorded her second straight double-double by adding 15 digs. UCSD held a 100-86 lead in digs as three other Tritons had double digit totals including Lombardi with a career-high 27.

Janae Giles led all players with 19 kills for Grand Canyon. Kristen Preach dished out 54 assists as the 'Lopes hit .270 for the match.

UCSD faces a tough match Saturday as it takes on 13th-ranked Metro State at 11:30 a.m. The Tritons wrap up tourney play with a 4:40 p.m. tilt against the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. It will mark the first time the two squads have ever met.

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