The UC San Diego men's volleyball team is back on the road this week, paying visits to two more Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) foes in No. 15 Cal State Northridge on Wednesday, Feb. 19, and No. 6 Long Beach State on Friday, Feb. 21. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m. The Tritons are currently at the exact midway point of their conference schedule.
Once again this season, all UCSD home matches inside RIMAC Arena feature a live online video stream with public-address audio. The video is free, but a registration and login are required. A majority of road matches also have video, including Wednesday's in Northridge, for free with audio commentary. All contests, home and away, have live stats. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page. Follow @UCSDtritons for in-match Twitter updates throughout the season, and @CSUN_InGame and @LBSU_MVB this week.
THE CANNED FOOD DRIVE IS ON
The CCAA is holding its annual canned food drive competition during the month of February, and all league schools are collecting canned goods to donate to local service organizations. UCSD is once again participating on behalf of the San Diego Food Bank. Donation bins are currently located in the lobby of the Intercollegiate Athletics suite on the top floor of RIMAC through Feb. 24. In addition, bins will be present at the following home events:
• Friday, Feb. 21 - women's/men's basketball vs. San Francisco State
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - baseball vs. Cal Poly Pomona
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - softball vs. Cal State East Bay
• Saturday, Feb. 22 - women's/men's basketball vs. Sonoma State
ABOUT THE MATADORS
No. 15 Cal State Northridge (3-8, 3-7 MPSF) begins a season-long four-match homestand on Wednesday night against the Tritons, where the Matadors are 2-3 in 2014. CSUN has dropped five in a row, all in straight sets this month beginning with a loss at Stanford on Feb. 1. The Matadors most recently fell at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA last week. Redshirt freshman opposite Damani Lenore leads the team with 95 kills (3.28/set). Junior Travis Magorien is the setter (9.34 assists/set). Redshirt freshman libero Bradley Sakaida has a team-best 61 digs (1.61/set). Jeff Campbell is in his 17th season in charge at his alma mater.
Cal State Northridge leads the all-time series, 67-7. The Matadors took both meetings a year ago in straight sets. UCSD was last victorious against CSUN on March 16, 2012, 3-1 at The Matadome. Carl Eberts (match-high 19) and Johl Awerkamp combined for 37 kills that night as the Tritons snapped a 40-match losing streak to Northridge.
ABOUT THE 49ERS
No. 6 Long Beach State (7-4, 6-4 MPSF) embarks on a season-long eight-match homestand Wednesday night against UC Irvine. The 49ers have played just two home matches in 2014 and are 1-1 inside the Walter Pyramid. They are in sixth place in the MPSF after being tabbed as co-favorites with BYU in the preseason coaches' poll. Senior outside hitter Taylor Crabb, the reigning AVCA National Player of the Year, has reached double digits in kills in all 11 matches this season, and leads the nation at 4.98 kills per set. Fellow senior All-American Connor Olbright is tops in the country in assists at 11.81 per set, with sophomore libero Andrew Sato fourth in digs (2.77/set). Alan Knipe is in his 11th season guiding his alma mater, and earned his 200th victory at the helm at then-second-ranked UCLA on Feb. 12.
LBSU leads the all-time series, 57-5. The Tritons lost three times to the 49ers last year, 3-2 in the third-place match of the UCSB/Asics Invitational (1/5), 3-1 in La Jolla (1/26) and 3-0 in Long Beach (3/6). LBSU has taken 12 of the last 13 meetings, with UCSD's lone win a 3-2 decision in Long Beach on March 15, 2012. That result marked one of just two Triton victories all-time at the Walter Pyramid, the other coming back in 1983.
UCSD played only twice at home over its first 11 matches ... The Tritons are home for 11 of their last 16 contests. ... After being listed among several teams receiving votes just outside of the top 15 in the first three AVCA national polls, including the preseason edition, UCSD has not appeared the last five weeks ... 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 1,579 career assists ... 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).
IN THE MPSF
Through matches played on Feb. 16, Brunsting ranks 13th in the conference in both service aces (0.29/set) and assists (3.68/set). Dempsey is 10th in assists (8.71/set).
Outside hitter Nick Iorfino has a team-best four double-digit kills performances on the year, with a season-best 14 kills at Pacific (2/8), 12 at California Baptist (1/16) and a match-high 12 more at Hawai'i (1/26). Brunsting has three following his recent move from starting setter to opposite hitter, including back-to-back matches at home this past weekend. He produced a career-high 17 vs. Pepperdine (2/15) after going for 12 vs. USC (2/14) and 11 vs. UCLA (1/30). Awerkamp, himself an opposite and a senior, has two, with a season-high 18 kills at CBU. Iorfino and Awerkamp have 18 and 14 such matches, respectively, for their Triton careers. The only other double-digit kills efforts so far in 2014 have come from redshirt junior Scot Metzger with a career-high 17 at Pacific and redshirt freshman middle blocker Mathew Schnitzer with 13 vs. CBU.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD lost in straight sets at home against a pair of top-five opponents in then-fifth-ranked USC and then-third-ranked Pepperdine last weekend. The Tritons extended the Waves in both the first and third frames, ultimately falling, though, 32-30, 25-16, 27-25. UCSD managed five set points in game one, but was unable to close it out. Brunsting put down eight of his match- and career-high 17 kills in the first set on .636 hitting (8-1-11).
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. With a format change and 10 teams present for the 50th installment, the Tritons came away with a second successive best-ever fourth-place effort. UCSD went 2-2 in best-of-three-set pool-play exhibitions on 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 college debuts.
Team tri-captains for the 2014 season were designated as Awerkamp, Brunsting and 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. 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. Seven members of that group have earned their collegiate debuts. Most recently, freshman middle blocker Shayne Beamer appeared vs. UCLA (1/30). Freshman middle blocker Jackson Wopat 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. Wopat made his first career appearance in his hometown at UC Santa Barbara (Dos Pueblos HS) on Jan. 4. In addition to Poway product 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 66-177 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.
UCSD returns to home action next weekend, first briefly dipping out of MPSF competition to host Grand Canyon on Friday, Feb. 28. The Tritons then welcome league foe UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, March 1. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m.