LA JOLLA, Calif. - UC San Diego was unable to approach its blocking effort from its previous match in losing to No. 4 UCLA, 3-0, in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men’s volleyball action at RIMAC Arena on Friday night. Set scores were 25-20, 25-18 and 25-20.
The Tritons had produced 20.0 total team blocks in a dramatic 3-2 victory at USC back on Mar. 16 before breaking for final exams. It was their best performance since an identical mark in 2009. On Friday night, the Bruins found minimal opposition at the net, their .551 attack percentage (45-7-69) the highest in the MPSF since Jan. 28, 2011, when the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara hit at a .563 rate against Pepperdine.
UCSD managed just one total block on this evening, as junior middle blocker Sebastian Brady and junior outside hitter Vaun Lennon combined to stuff UCLA’s junior outside hitter Dane Worley for a brief 5-4 edge in the second frame.
In suffering defeat in its first home appearance since Mar. 2, UCSD dropped to 7-17 overall and 4-15 in the MPSF. UCLA won its fifth straight to improve to 16-9 overall and 12-7 in conference action. The Bruins won all three meetings between the sides in 2013, snapping a string of five consecutive seasons in which the Tritons defeated UCLA at least once. UCSD is still 6-9 in the teams’ last 15 match-ups since 2008.
The opening set saw three tie scores at 6-6, 8-8 and 9-9, before back-to-back points on an attack error and Trent Kersten kill gave the visitors a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. The Tritons had earlier rallied from a 5-1 deficit, storming out of a timeout by scoring five of the next six points for the 6-6 deadlock. Carl Eberts and Mike Brunsting each served aces during the run, with Eberts igniting the stretch with a kill.
UCLA tallied the first two points of the second frame before UCSD took its first and only lead of the night at 5-4 on the combo block. The Bruins posted eight of the next nine points for a commanding 12-6 advantage. Worley served four of those points, while contributing two kills and an ace.
The Bruins earned the first point of set number three on a service ace by junior outside hitter Robart Page, and maintained that edge throughout the final game. Moments later, it was 5-1, forcing a Triton timeout.
Three successive points, including a Lennon ace and Eberts kill, led to a Bruin timeout at 8-7. A stretch of three more points in a row got UCSD within two at 17-15 as UCLA took its second and final stoppage. Lennon began the run with a kill, and followed that up with back-to-back identical-looking aces that hit the top of the tape and fell over on the other side.
Eberts and sophomore opposite Cheyne Hayes shared the UCSD team high with six kills apiece. Lennon’s three aces off the bench were a season high. He added three kills. Senior middle blocker Greg Smith, also in a reserve role, provided five kills. Senior libero Chase Frishman got to a team-high six digs. Brunsting (12 assists) and sophomore Garrett Dempsey (10) split setter duties.
Junior outside hitter Gonzalo Quiroga of UCLA led all players with his 13 kills. Page joined him in double figures with 10. Neither Spencer Rowe (7-0-9, .778) nor Kersten (6-0-8, .750) made a hitting error. Junior setter Connor Bannan, the younger brother of all-time UCSD assists and aces leader Phil Bannan, handed out 37 assists.
The Tritons next contest their regular-season road finale at second-ranked defending national champion UC Irvine this Sunday, Mar. 31. First serve at the Bren Events Center in Irvine is set for 4 p.m.
Triton Notes: With his six kills tonight, Carl Eberts increased his career total to 990, fifth-most in program history as he vies to become just the fifth Triton ever to reach the 1,000-kill plateau … Chase Frishman’s team-high six digs increased his career total to 627, second-most in the program record book … UCSD matched its season high of seven service aces, having now reached that total in back-to-back contests … The 1.0 total team blocks equaled a season low from the Tritons’ previous home appearance Mar. 2 versus BYU.
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