The UC San Diego men's volleyball team concludes both its current season-long six-match homestand, and its 2014 campaign, this week, hosting a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) foes from Northern California in Pacific on Friday, April 11, and No. 4 Stanford the following night on Senior Night. First serve at RIMAC Arena for both contests is slated 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.
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. 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.
Five Tritons will be recognized prior to the first serve this Saturday night against fourth-ranked Stanford on Senior Night. Johl Awerkamp, Mike Brunsting, Nick Iorfino, Scot Metzger and Fred Stahl will all be competing for the final time in a UCSD uniform that evening.
ABOUT THE TIGERS
Friday night's contest will be the final one between UCSD and Pacific (3-22, 2-20 MPSF), as UOP announced late last August that the men's volleyball program would be cut following the 2014 campaign. The Tigers are coming off of an emotional straight-set victory over California Baptist in their home finale last Saturday. Freshman Thomas Hodges had a match-high 14 kills on 19 swings without a single error (.737). UOP is 1-9 outside of Stockton this year. The Tigers will have one final match at UC Irvine on Saturday night. Joe Wortmann is in his 22nd season in charge.
UOP holds a 36-6 advantage in the all-time series, and has won seven straight with successive season sweeps in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and a 3-1 victory in this year's earlier contest in Stockton back on Feb. 8. The Tigers won 3-1 at home and 3-2 in La Jolla last season, despite a career-high 30 kills by Awerkamp in his 2013 debut in the RIMAC match-up. Prior to this stretch, the Tritons had taken six consecutive meetings, with sweeps in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
ABOUT THE CARDINAL
No. 4 Stanford (18-7, 15-7 MPSF) is arguably the hottest team in collegiate men's volleyball right now, with the Cardinal winners of nine straight. They play at No. 6 UC Irvine Friday prior to heading further south into La Jolla. Stanford has already clinched a berth into the 2014 MPSF Tournament, but is looking this weekend to lock up a quarterfinal home date. The Cardinal currently are alone in third, one match back of Pepperdine and half ahead of UC Santa Barbara. The senior outside hitter tandem of Brian Cook and Steven Irvin have each started all 25 matches and pace the squad with 338 and 308 kills, respectively. Sophomore James Shaw (10.99 assists/set) is the starting setter. Stanford is 6-4 away from home this year. John Kosty, the 2010 AVCA Division I-II National Coach of the Year, is in his eighth season in charge of the Cardinal.
Stanford leads the all-time series, 42-3, and has won the last six meetings, including this season's earlier match-up in Palo Alto, 3-0 on Feb. 7. UCSD last topped Stanford, 3-0, at Maples Pavilion on Feb. 11, 2011, when the Tritons were ranked No. 12 and defending national champion Stanford was No. 4. Set scores were 25-18, 30-28 and 25-16, with UCSD in control throughout, hitting .477 as a team to just .182 for Stanford. Former standout outside hitter Carl Eberts, a sophomore at the time, produced a match-high 15 kills. Stanford posted a pair of three-set sweeps a year ago.
RECORD EFFICIENCY AGAINST BOBCATS
UCSD put together a record hitting night in overwhelming UC Merced in its non-conference finale last Saturday at RIMAC Arena. Set scores were 25-13, 25-10 and 25-11 in a match that lasted a mere 57 minutes. The Tritons hit .554 (39-8-56) as a team, the program’s highest percentage in both college volleyball’s rally-scoring era since 2011, and the NCAA Division II era since the 2001 season. It is quite possibly an all-time school standard. The only other time since 2001 that UCSD eclipsed the .500 mark in attack rate was in another 3-0 home win, against Princeton on Jan. 27, 2010. The Tritons hit .518 that night (53-10-83).
TRITONS COME UP ACES
In addition to the record hitting percentage, the Tritons also had a great night from the service line against the Bobcats, turning in a season-high 11 aces, their largest total since also reaching 11 in a 3-1 home upset of then-third-ranked Ohio State on March 24, 2011. Kirill Rudenko entered the match with four aces on the year and served a match-high five on the night. Former star setter Phil Bannan last posted five aces in a match at UC Irvine on Jan. 12, 2011.
Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) has produced three double-doubles for his career. Most recently, he put down a career-high 18 kills to go along with 10 digs in UCSD's 3-2 triumph at home over Grand Canyon on Feb. 28. Previous double-doubles came on Jan. 14, 2012 vs. NJIT (55 assists and 12 digs) in Phoenix, Ariz., and Feb. 8, 2013 at Pacific (46 assists and 15 digs). Junior setter Garrett Dempsey is the only other Triton with a double-double, having registered 50 assists and a career-high 11 digs in a five-set home win over California Baptist on March 13. The 50 assists matched his career best.
TANNER HOWARD: TEAM MANAGER TO STARTING LIBERO
Redshirt freshman Tanner Howard made his first appearance in a Triton uniform at libero and handled a match-high 16 digs in the five-set home win over Grand Canyon on Feb. 28. With multiple liberos out of action, the native of Pismo Beach found himself on the roster officially on Feb. 27, and on the court when the first serve went up the following night. Howard was the team manager as a true freshman in 2013, and was serving in that capacity again this season before fate called his number. In addition to the digs, he put together a solid passing game with zero reception errors in 27 opportunities, and added three assists. Howard contributed a team-high six digs the following night vs. UCSB, and reached double figures again with 10 in the five-set home win over CBU (3/13), with a season-high four assists. He then posted a season- and match-high 19 digs in the five-set home loss to Cal State Northridge on March 29, the highest single-match total for a Triton since former libero Chase Frishman also had 19 on March 30, 2012.
Twice this season, on March 3 and March 31, Howard earned Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week honorable mention ... Brunsting ranks seventh on the all-time Triton list with 1,682 career assists ... A program-high seven Tritons earned MPSF All-Academic distinction in 2013, including returners Brunsting, now a two-time selection, Dempsey and Stahl ... Through matches played on April 6, Dempsey ranks 10th in the MPSF in assists (8.46/set) and Brunsting 14th (3.08/set) ... In conference matches only, Awerkamp is sixth in aces (0.31/set), Dempsey still 10th in assists (8.52/set) and Brunsting still 14th (3.11/set) ... The Tritons are ninth as a team in the MPSF in aces (0.86/set) ... UCSD played only twice at home over its first 11 matches ... The Tritons are at home for 11 of their last 16 contests. ... 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.
Brunsting has a team-best eight matches this year in double-digit kills. He provided a career-high 18 kills vs. GCU (2/28), 17 vs. Pepperdine (2/15) and 16 in the win vs. CBU (3/13). Brunsting had a match-high 11 kills at No. 3 BYU (3/15). Iorfino has six matches with double-digit kills (20 career), with a season-best 18 vs. CSUN (3/29), a team-high 16 vs. UCI (4/4) and a match-high 12 at Hawai'i (1/26). Awerkamp has four (15 career), with a season-high 20 kills vs. CBU after having put down 18 at CBU (1/16). The other double-digit efforts in kills in 2014 have come from redshirt junior Scot Metzger (career-high 17 at UOP), redshirt freshman middle blocker Mathew Schnitzer (13 at CBU), and redshirt sophomore outside hitters Eric Barber (career-high 10 at CSUN and vs. GCU) and Rudenko (12 vs. GCU). Brunsting (11 at UOP; 10 vs. GCU, 2/28), Dempsey (11 vs. CBU) and liberos Howard (19 vs. CSUN; 16 vs. GCU; 10 vs. CBU), Elliott Shaw (10 vs. PEP) and Griffin Galvin (10 at CSUN) have each reached double figures in digs.
With Awerkamp's return to the lineup at UC Santa Barbara on March 7, Brunsting played in his third position for his fourth and final season of college volleyball. He began the year as the Tritons' starting setter before Awerkamp's injury vs. BYU on Jan. 18 forced him back to a spot in which he had played sparingly in the past, opposite hitter. In Santa Barbara, Brunsting started at outside hitter, with Dempsey at setter and Awerkamp at opposite.
FIRST WIN OVER 'LOPES
UCSD made its way into the win column at home against non-conference opponent Grand Canyon on Friday night, Feb. 28. Scores in the five-setter were 30-28, 17-25, 25-20, 16-25, 15-6. Three Tritons made it into double-figure kills in Brunsting (18), Rudenko (12) and Barber (10), all eclipsing or matching their career highs. Brunsting completed his double-double with 10 digs, while Howard came up with a match-high 16 digs in his college debut at libero.
FIRST LEAGUE TRIUMPH OVER CBU
The Tritons produced their first MPSF victory of 2014 on Thursday, March 13, at home against California Baptist. UCSD overturned a 2-1 deficit in sets, ultimately outlasting the Lancers, 25-20, 20-25, 23-25, 27-25, 15-10. Awerkamp collected his team-best 20th kill on match point, while Brunsting added 16 kills and a career-high five service aces, three of which came during a decisive 7-0 run in the fifth set. Dempsey achieved his first double-double, with 50 assists and a career-best 11 digs. Howard added 10 digs of his own.
LAST TIME OUT
Last Friday night at RIMAC Arena, UCSD went toe-to-toe with then-seventh-ranked UC Irvine in three of four sets, but came away on the short end of a 3-1 (25-20, 22-25, 25-18, 25-13) verdict. The Tritons hit .260 on the night, with Iorfino accounting for 16 kills. Brunsting handed out 41 assists. Saturday, it took just 53 minutes for UCSD to dispatch of visiting men's volleyball newcomer UC Merced, 3-0 (25-13, 25-10, 25-11). Awerkamp (nine kills) and Barber (eight) led the way. Rudenko came off the bench to blast five of UCSD’s season-best 11 service aces, and Awerkamp had a trio.
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 11 new players to the program with no prior collegiate experience. Seven members of that group have earned their debuts. Most recently, Howard appeared for the first time vs. GCU (2/28) and Shayne Beamer vs. UCLA (1/30). Jackson Wopat, like Beamer a freshman middle blocker, 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 69-186 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.
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