The UC San Diego men's volleyball team plays two more Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) matches this week. The Tritons travel to Riverside on Thursday, Jan. 16, to take on California Baptist inside Van Dyne Gym. Following the conclusion of a four-match road stretch for starters, UCSD will then await its 2014 home opener at RIMAC Arena against eighth-ranked 2013 national runner-up BYU on Saturday, Jan. 18. First serve for both contests is set for 7 p.m.
UCSD students are admitted free to all regular-season home volleyball matches. General admission tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for visiting students, seniors and UCSD Alumni Association members. Tickets are available at the main entrance to RIMAC Arena on the night of the match.
FREE TANK TOPS
The first 500 UCSD students in attendance at Saturday night's home opener will get a free Triton tank top, courtesy of Triton Tide.
Once again this season, all UCSD home matches inside RIMAC Arena will feature a live online video stream for free, with public-address audio. A majority of road matches will also have video, including Thursday's meeting with California Baptist, with audio, for a fee of $3.95. All contests, home and away, will have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page. Follow @UCSDtritons for in-match Twitter updates throughout the season, and @cbulancers and @BYUvolleyball this week.
ABOUT THE LANCERS
California Baptist (0-3, 0-2 MPSF) begins the week with identical overall and league records as the Tritons. Both squads will be looking for their first win of 2014 on Thursday night in Riverside. CBU lost a 3-0 home decision to then-top-ranked Long Beach State in its most recent outing last Thursday night. The Lancers previously placed sixth at the UCSB Asics Invitational, falling to IPFW, 3-1, in their season opener. Senior middle blocker Kristopher Johnson was named to the All-Tournament Team. Wes Schneider is in his second year as the head coach at CBU, which is in just its second year in the MPSF and was picked to place 13th in the 13-team league's preseason poll.
CBU leads the all-time series, 17-7. The teams split their two meetings in 2013 as first-time league rivals in the MPSF, with each side winning at home. UCSD fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to win a five-set thriller in La Jolla on Jan. 17, prior to suffering a 3-0 defeat in Riverside on March 1. The Tritons have lost five straight road dates with the Lancers dating back to a 3-2 win in Riverside on March 9, 2005.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
No. 8 BYU (2-2, 2-0 MPSF), the MPSF co-favorite this season alongside Long Beach State, showed why with an impressive start to the league slate after back-to-back road losses in non-conference action the week before. The Cougars blanked Cal State Northridge, 3-0, and downed LBSU, ranked No. 1 at the time, 3-1, at home last weekend. Senior outside hitter Taylor Sander, the 2013 MPSF Player of the Year, compiled 24 kills and 11 digs in the win over the 49ers to earn MPSF/Molten Player of the Week honors. Sophomore setter and La Jolla native Tyler Heap (La Jolla HS) had a career-high 47 assists. Heap is one of four San Diego products on the Cougar roster. BYU had begun the campaign with defeats at Loyola Chicago and Lewis. Now in his third season in charge, Chris McGown earned AVCA National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year distinction in 2013 after leading his alma mater to the MPSF crown and a spot in the NCAA national championship match. BYU travels to take on No. 7 UC Irvine on Friday night in a rematch of that 2013 title tilt, prior to heading down to La Jolla.
UCSD has never beaten BYU, in 34 tries. The Cougars produced a pair of three-set sweeps in 2013.
For the third straight AVCA Division I-II Men's Poll, including the preseason edition, UCSD is among several teams receiving votes just outside of the top 15 nationally ... UCSD was picked to finish 12th in the 2014 MPSF race in the conference's preseason coaches' poll, with reigning MPSF champion BYU and 2013 league runner-up Long Beach State joint favorites ... Senior setter Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) is No. 8 on the all-time Triton list with 1,472 career assists ... Senior opposite Johl Awerkamp put down 11 kills at Pepperdine on Jan. 11 for the first double-digit performance in kills by a Triton in 2014, giving him 13 such matches for his UCSD career ... Awerkamp earlier produced a career-high five total blocks at USC on Jan. 10 ... A program-high seven Tritons earned MPSF All-Academic distinction in 2013, including returners Brunsting, now a two-time selection, junior Garrett Dempsey and senior Fred Stahl ... Brunsting is the only current UCSD player with a double-double, with two for his career (1/14/12 vs. NJIT: 55 assists and 12 digs; 2/8/13 at UOP: 46 assists and 15 digs).
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD had its two-match win streak in its all-time series with USC snapped by the fifth-ranked Trojans at the Galen Center last Friday night, 3-0. The Tritons, who had swept their two meetings with USC for the first time in program history in 2013, then were handed the same result by No. 6 Pepperdine the next night in Malibu.
TRITONS OPEN SEASON WITH REPEAT BEST-EVER SHOWING AT ASICS INVITE
For the second straight year and fourth time in the last five, UCSD opened its season at the annual UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational. Through a format change and with 10 teams present for the 50th installment, the Tritons came away with a second successive best-ever fourth-place effort. UCSD went an even 2-2 in best-of-three-set pool-play exhibitions on Friday, Jan. 3, with those contests not counting against overall records. The Tritons were the only squad to take a set that day off of eventual tourney champion Long Beach State. On tiebreakers, UCSD placed second in Pool B and matched up with eighth-ranked host UCSB in the third-place match on Jan. 4, losing 3-0. Awerkamp was named to the All-Tournament Team. Eight Tritons made their official college debuts.
Team tri-captains for the 2014 season were designated as Awerkamp, Brunsting and fourth-year junior Scot Metzger. All three veteran Tritons are first-time captains.
UCSD returns 10 players, including two redshirt freshmen and one injury redshirt (Metzger), from the 2013 campaign. Among the contingent back are Brunsting and Dempsey at the setter position. Awerkamp and Iorfino are two of UCSD's top attackers at opposite and outside hitter, respectively. Stahl was 12th in the league at 1.04 blocks per set as a junior middle in 2013.
The 2014 roster includes 12 new players to the program, including 11 freshmen. Highlighting that group are Kirill Rudenko, an outside hitter out of Moscow, Russia with three years of college eligibility, freshmen liberos Griffin Galvin and Bryan Lee, and rookie middle blocker Jackson Wopat. All four made their collegiate debuts at UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 4. Wopat, out of Santa Barbara's Dos Pueblos High School, is the younger brother of Carly Wopat, who completed her senior season at Stanford in December as a two-time AVCA first-team All-American. In addition to Brunsting, one other San Diego native is freshman middle Bryan Zhu, a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School.
HEAD COACH KEVIN RING
Kevin Ring is in his ninth season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has a 66-167 overall record at the helm. Before being elevated to the head-coaching position on June 15, 2005, Ring spent the previous nine years as an assistant for the UCSD men's squad. He got his start at UCSD as the men's volleyball team manager from 1989-91 before playing for the Tritons for three seasons. Ring was the full-time manager for the USA men's national team from 1991-93 and continued on as a technical advisor through 1996. He accompanied Team USA to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The 1992 squad left Spain with a bronze medal. To this day, Ring maintains strong ties to USA Volleyball, as he has been aiding women's national team head coach Karch Kiraly and his staff in preparing Team USA for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
UCSD Athletics has partnered with Advanced-Online to provide a web-based, on-demand option for UCSD apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours. Visit the site at UCSDTritonsGear.com.
Following Saturday's home opener, the Tritons are back on the road next week, travelling on Thursday, Jan. 23, to Honolulu, Hawaii. UCSD will contest two matches at the University of Hawai'i, on Friday, Jan. 24, and Sunday, Jan. 26.