LA JOLLA, Calif. - Seniors Nick Iorfino and Johl Awerkamp combined for 28 kills to propel UC San Diego past the University of the Pacific, 3-0, in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men’s volleyball action Friday night at RIMAC Arena. Set scores were 25-22, 25-20 and 25-17.
The match marked the 43rd and final meeting between the Tritons (4-22, 2-21 MPSF) and Tigers (3-23, 2-21 MPSF). UOP announced late last August that it’s men’s volleyball program would be cut following this 2014 campaign. The result snapped a string of seven straight Tiger wins over UCSD dating back to 2010, including a 3-1 decision in this year’s first match-up in Stockton back on Feb. 8. Pacific plays one final contest at No. 6 UC Irvine on Saturday night.
UCSD has won back-to-back matches for the first time since a five-match streak late in the 2012 season. With last Saturday’s sweep of non-conference opponent UC Merced, the Tritons have successive straight-set triumphs for the first time since 2009.
The Tritons hit .329 (44-18-79) on the night, their third-best percentage in an MPSF contest in 2014. Iorfino fell two kills short of his career high and one shy of his season best in putting down 17 to lead all players. He attacked at a .440 rate (17-6-25) and added a match- and season-high eight digs, three assists and one ace. Awerkamp joined him in double figures with 11 kills, to go along with two assists, two digs, a team-high five total blocks and a match- and career-high four aces.
Iorfino has collected 51 kills over his last three league matches, while Awerkamp has served up 12 aces his last four times on the court.
Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) finished with 36 assists, two kills, two aces and six digs. A fourth senior, Fred Stahl, contributed three block assists. Sophomore outside hitter Kirill Rudenko provided six kills, two assists, four digs and a block off the bench. Redshirt freshman middle Mathew Schnitzer had five kills.
Edgardo Cartagena and Tommy Carmody accumulated eight and seven kills, respectively, to pace the Tigers. Carmody got his hands to a match-high six blocks.
Friday’s first set was the closest of the three, featuring six lead changes and a tie score nine times. Neither side could muster more than two points in a row in the early going, until a run of three points through an attack error, Brunsting ace and Awerkamp solo block gave UCSD an 11-9 edge. Four points out of five later by UCSD exhausted both of Pacific’s timeouts and left the host sporting an 18-13 cushion.
The Tigers pulled to within a single point on three occasions down the stretch at 19-18, 22-21 and 23-22, but a Schnitzer kill and Awerkamp ace gave UCSD the set.
An emphatic combination block by Awerkamp and Stahl gave UCSD a 10-8 lead in a second set that did not see the Tritons trail at all. The point in fact came in the middle of a 4-0 run that broke a fourth and final deadlock in the frame of 8-8.
A triple block by Awerkamp, Rudenko and Stahl then made it 23-17 in the middle of a three-point run that moved UCSD to set point at 24-17. Three straight points by the Tigers, the last on a triple block of their own by Carmody, Cartagena and Ryan Genn, forced a timeout at 24-20, but Rudenko’s kill put the home side in command.
The final stanza had four lead changes and 10 tie scores. A final triple block, this one by Pacific’s Cartagena, Matthew Dorn and Marco Grasso, gave the visitors a 5-3 advantage. Though UCSD tallied the nexts three points to regain a 6-5 edge, the Tigers were still up, 10-8, when the Tritons called for time.
Kills by Awerkamp and Iorfino knotted the score at 10-10 before a stuff block by Carmody and Genn gave Pacific one final lead at 11-10. UCSD notched seven of the next nine points to gain some comfort at 17-13. At 18-16, the Tritons scored five straight on three consecutive hitting errors prior to kills by Awerkamp and Brunsting, to put the result out of doubt. Iorfino’s final two kills capped the victory.
UCSD completes a season-long six-match homestand and its 2014 schedule on Saturday, hosting No. 4 Stanford on Senior Night. First serve inside RIMAC Arena is slated for just after 7 p.m., following a ceremony recognizing five Triton seniors in Awerkamp, Brunsting, Iorfino, Stahl Scot Metzger.