RIVERSIDE, Calif. - The UC San Diego men’s volleyball team played a five-set thriller with Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) foe California Baptist University Thursday night at the Van Dyne Gym, only to come away with a fourth straight road defeat. Scores were 25-15, 20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 20-18.
UCSD (0-4, 0-3 MPSF) and CBU (1-3, 1-2 MPSF) had entered the match with identical overall and league marks, both in search of a first 2014 victory. The Lancers have now won six straight meetings in Riverside dating back to a 3-2 Triton triumph on March 9, 2005.
The home side got out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set on four kills followed by a service ace. Two more mini-runs, in quick succession with eight of nine points coming on Triton errors, pushed it out to 15-4 as CBU took full control.
California Baptist scored the first three points of the second set. Three points in a row on a Nick Iorfino kill and back-to-back hitting errors pulled UCSD even at 10-10, but CBU answered with a pair of Johannes Brink kills around a combination block for 13-10. Kills by seniors Johl Awerkamp and Fred Stahl pulled the Tritons within one at 16-15 and 17-16, respectively, but service errors number eight and nine kept the deficit at two. Another Iorfino kill and an ace by senior setter Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) knotted the score once more at 18-18.
Coming out of a CBU timeout, sophomore libero Elliott Shaw set Awerkamp up for a kill that gave UCSD its first lead of the night at 19-18. Subsequent kills by redshirt freshman middle Mathew Schnitzer and Awerkamp forced the Lancers’ second timeout with the Tritons up by two. A third Awerkamp kill during the late stretch put UCSD in command at 22-19. Two Schnitzer kills from Brunsting around a CBU point gave the Tritons game point, with Schnitzer then setting Awerkamp for UCSD’s first set victory of 2014 after 10 surrendered. Awerkamp totaled six kills and an ace.
A tight, back-and-forth third set went the way of California Baptist. Tied at 17-17 late, the Lancers strung together three points. Iorfino’s ace pulled UCSD even again at 21-21, only for another three-point run by CBU. A service error ended it.
A four-point stretch turned a 4-3 deficit into a 7-4 lead for UCSD in set four. Though the Tritons were up 11-7 at one point, the frame was later tied at 14-14 and 19-19. CBU called a timeout with UCSD up a point at 22-21. Even up one last time at 22-22, a Schnitzer kill and Lancer attack error moved the Tritons ahead by a pair. An Iorfino kill forced a fifth and deciding set.
After allowing the first three points of that final frame, UCSD got it back to 4-4 on consecutive stuff blocks, first by Schnitzer and freshman Ian Colbert, and then by Colbert and Stahl. Up 5-4, the Tritons gave up the next three points and had to call for time.
The drama continued, with tie scores at 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10 and 11-11, before Brunsting served an ace as UCSD snuck ahead. Still, it was tied again at 12-12, 13-13, 14-14, 15-15 and even 16-16, with the Lancers saving three match points in the process. A stuff block ultimately put a capper on the affair.
The match featured 41 deadlocks, with the fifth set alone accounting for 14 ties and six of 13 lead changes on the night.
“We played a good, solid match tonight, even making the necessary plays to close out games two and four,” commented UCSD head coach Kevin Ring. “We simply didn’t find a way to close out a third game for the match.”
Awerkamp produced a double-digit kill total for the second match in a row, coming up with a season-high 18 to go along with a career-high three aces and season-high six digs. Schnitzer had a career-high 13 kills, with Iorfino adding 13 of his own. Stahl contributed season highs of eight kills and five blocks. Colbert collected a career-best five kills. Brunsting dished out 49 assists in his best effort of 2014 off the bench.
“Before the match, we discussed getting our offense back on track,” added Ring. “A few players were able to generate some kills and hit for a better efficiency. We now need that to be routine for us."
“Despite all of the attacks we had on the night, the biggest factor was likely our 24 service errors to just 10 by CBU,” concluded Ring. “Serving and passing will always be a factor in a match, and we need to get better at it. Maybe the best thing we did on the night was to simply never give up and fight to the very end. We need more of that as we continue on in the season.”
For CBU, Brink tallied 24 kills to lead all players.
Having concluded a season-long four-match road stretch to begin the year, UCSD is now finally set for its 2014 home opener, this Saturday night, Jan. 18, against 2013 national runner-up and current No. 8 BYU. First serve at RIMAC Arena is at 7 p.m.