With the victory, the Tritons evened their record at 3-3 overall and are now 2-1 in the conference. Cal Baptist, the 13th and newest member of the MPSF this season, dropped to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league play. The Lancers, from Riverside, were coming off a 3-2 upset over top-ranked defending national champion UC Irvine at home on Wednesday night in their first-ever MPSF contest after rallying from a two-set deficit.
"Any time you're able to win a match in this conference, it's pretty big," said eighth-year UCSD head coach Kevin Ring. "Right now, everyone's just beating up on everyone else. The games we lost tonight, 25-19 and 25-17, that's really not that big a gap. It's two or three plays. It's just, can you come back that next game, can you push back a little bit? I thought we did a great job of that tonight."
UCSD's Carl Eberts produced 22 kills to lead all players and equal the highest single-match output of his illustrious Triton career, having reached that total two previous times. With just four errors on 34 swings, the fifth-year senior outside hitter hit .529 for the night while adding eight digs.
"I thought late in games tonight, especially the ones that we won, he wanted the ball," remarked Ring about his tri-captain. "You could see it, and he's calling for (the ball). He got it done tonight."
Ring's lineup maneuvering paid big dividends, as he played the final two sets with Nick Iorfino and both his setters in Mike Brunsting and Garrett Dempsey, although Dempsey was setting and Brunsting was showing his versatility at opposite.
Iorfino wound up with a season-high nine kills off the bench on .538 (9-2-13) hitting, with Brunsting adding five kills to his 25 assists from his turn as the primary setter to begin the night, and Dempsey dishing out 24 assists of his own.
"We made a few lineup changes," added Ring. "We were able to get a lot of personnel out on the court. I thought Nick Iorfino coming in off the bench and hitting .538 was tremendous, and huge for us at that moment. He also served well throughout his time on the court."
Eberts and Iorfino put down seven kills apiece in a dominant fourth-set performance by UCSD that forced the fifth and deciding frame. The Tritons attacked at a .630 rate (20-3-27), their best single-game performance of the 2013 season.
Over the fourth and fifth sets, Eberts, Iorfino, Brunsting and Dempsey accounted for 24 of the Tritons' 27 kills.
Not to be outdone, junior outside hitter Vaun Lennon also reached double figures in kills with 10. Senior libero Chase Frishman scampered around the court to the tune of a match-high 11 digs. Junior middle blocker Fred Stahl contributed five kills and a match-high six total blocks, including important denials in each of the last two sets.
With UCSD leading 23-16 in the fourth after three straight points, Stahl roofed CBU's Jonathan Waber down the middle to push the Tritons to set point, with an Eberts kill closing it out. Then ahead 6-5 in the fifth, Stahl combined with Iorfino to deny Lancer outside hitter Levi Cabral and give UCSD the first two-point edge of the set.
Later tied at 9-9 and then 10-10 in that fifth game, three Eberts kills in a span of four points gave the Tritons a 13-11 advantage and forced a Cal Baptist timeout. Coming out of the stoppage, it was Dempsey and Sebastian Brady teaming up on a block of Cabral. After the Lancers deflected one match point, Iorfino's cross-court attack from a Dempsey set punctuated the Tritons' come-from-behind victory.
Cabral paced Cal Baptist with 17 kills, with fellow Brazil native Guilherme Koepp adding 15 kills. Senior outside hitter Aaron McCalmont, a San Diego native out of Granite Hills High School, finished with a double-double of 16 kills and a team-high 10 digs. Sophomore setter Kevin Kustura collected 47 assists and six digs.
Having concluded its three-match homestand, UCSD travels to Provo, Utah, on Friday to take on the third-ranked BYU Cougars on Saturday night, Jan. 19. First serve at Smith Fieldhouse is set for 6 p.m. PT as the Tritons search for their first victory over BYU.
"We haven't beaten them," concluded Ring. "Over the last five years, and I've talked about this with my team in the past, we've continued to do things this program has never done before. It might be number of wins, or who we've beaten, and there's one right there. We haven't beaten BYU. We get a shot Saturday night."
Triton Notes: With his 22 kills tonight, Carl Eberts increased his career total to 831, ninth-most in program history, as he vies to become just the fifth Triton ever to reach the 1,000-kill plateau ... Eberts now has three career matches with 20-plus kills, having previously registered 22 kills vs. BYU on Feb. 11, 2012, and at Pepperdine on March 12, 2011 ... Eberts has 43 matches with 10-plus kills, including four so far this season ... With 11 more digs, Chase Frishman now has 494 for his career, sixth-most on the all-time UCSD list ... Frishman has compiled 10-plus digs twice this year and 19 times as a Triton ... Vaun Lennon now has four matches with double-figure kills in 2013 and 19 for his college career.
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