Photo by: Mark Cooley/Sideline Studios
Triton head coach Kevin Ring and top assistant Paul Warren are back for another season on the bench at their alma mater.
UCSD Opens 2014 Campaign at 50th Annual UCSB Asics Invitational
Release: Thursday 01/02/2014 

at 50th Annual UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational
Friday, Jan. 3 • 10 a.m. (pool play all day)
The Thunderdome • Santa Barbara

Saturday, Jan. 4 • TBD (placement match - season opener)
Rob Gym • Santa Barbara
Live Stats (Saturday only)

The UC San Diego men's volleyball team begins the 2014 season in Santa Barbara this weekend as the Tritons participate in the 10-team UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational. This year's installment will mark the 50th edition of the top lid-lifter annually on the collegiate men's volleyball calendar. UCSD is taking part in its second straight UCSB Asics Invite, and fourth in the last five years. Fan resources, including campus/parking maps and driving directions, can be found here. All-tournament passes are priced at $30 for adults and $20 for seniors, youth and military. One-day passes are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors, youth and military. Tickets can be purchased on-site at each venue. Live stats will only be available for Saturday's matches. There will be no live video coverage during the tournament.

The format of the annual Asics Invite has changed this year. Moving from its traditional eight-team field, there will be 10 squads on hand in 2014. The participants have been divided into two groups of five. No matches on Friday's first day will count toward any team's overall record, as they play best-of-three-set pool-play contests against each of the other four sides in their respective groups. Those matches will begin at 10 a.m. on two courts inside The Thunderdome on the UCSB campus. UCSD will take on, in order, Long Beach State, IPFW and UCLA. Following a break for lunch, the Tritons will have a bye at 3 p.m., and will then round out the day against Cal State Northridge a short time later.

Based on Friday results, each team will play its corresponding seed in the opposite pool in one match on Saturday. The fifth-place teams in pools A and B will play each other for ninth place on Saturday at 10 a.m. Fourth-place finishers will meet for seventh place at 12:30 p.m., third-place teams for fifth place at 3 p.m., and pool runners-up for third place at 5:30 p.m. The 2014 Asics Invitational champion is to be determined between pool A and B winners at 8 p.m. All five of these matches will be the regulation best-of-five sets and serve as official season openers for each squad. Saturday's action takes place inside UCSB's Rob Gym.

The UCSB Asics Invitational field includes six teams ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I-II Men's Preseason Poll, with three more squads, including UCSD, among those receiving votes just outside of the top 15. Pool A consists of eighth-ranked tournament host UC Santa Barbara, No. 5 Stanford, No. 15 California Baptist, Pacific and Harvard. UCSD is joined in Pool B by No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 Long Beach State, No. 14 Cal State Northridge and IPFW. Only Harvard and IPFW are from outside of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF).

Long Beach State, the 2013 MPSF runner-up, shared the top spot with BYU in the MPSF's preseason coaches' poll, with UCLA at No. 4, Stanford at No. 5, UCSB at No. 7, Cal State Northridge at No. 10, UOP at No. 11, UCSD at No. 12 and CBU at No. 13. IPFW was picked to finish fifth in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), with Harvard tabbed third in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA).

UCSD finished a program-best fourth at the 2013 UCSB Asics Invitational. The Tritons played all three nationally-ranked opponents to five sets, opening the season with a 3-2 upset victory over No. 5 Lewis. They then dropped a thriller to No. 6 UCLA in the tourney semifinals before suffering another narrow defeat to No. 7 Long Beach State in the third-place match. UCSD had gone an identical 1-2 for seventh-place showings at the 2010 and 2011 editions of the event. Two-time defending national champion UC Irvine won the 2013 Asics title, 3-2 over UCLA.

UCSD is 3-5 in season openers under head coach Kevin Ring, including 1-4 outside of La Jolla ... The Tritons are coming off of a 2013 campaign in which they went 7-22 overall and 4-20 in MPSF play, placing 13th in the league standings ... UCSD is among five teams receiving votes just outside of the AVCA Division I-II Men's Preseason Poll, released on Dec. 11 ... Senior setter Mike Brunsting, a Poway native out of Francis Parker School, is No. 8 on the all-time Triton list with 1,439 career assists heading into his fourth and final year ... 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 ... 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).

UCSD returns 10 players, including two redshirt freshmen and one injury redshirt, from the 2013 campaign. Among the contingent back, Brunsting and Dempsey are battling it out for the starting setter position. Opposite Johl Awerkamp and outside hitter Nick Iorfino look to have strong senior seasons as two of UCSD's top attackers, as will Stahl, who finished 12th in the league at 1.04 blocks per set as a junior in 2013, in the middle. The Tritons will have to replace the likes of graduated seniors Carl Eberts, No. 5 on the program's all-time kills chart, and libero Chase Frishman, No. 2 all-time at UCSD in digs.

The 2014 roster includes 12 new players to the program. Highlighting that group are Kirill Rudenko, an outside hitter out of Moscow, Russia with three years of college eligibility, libero Bryan Lee and middle blocker Jackson Wopat. In addition to Brunsting, one other San Diego native is freshman middle Bryan Zhu, a graduate of Rancho Bernardo High School.

Ring enters his ninth season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has a 66-164 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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Following the UCSB Asics Invitational, the Tritons open the MPSF portion of their 2014 schedule with a pair of road matches at USC on Friday, Jan. 10, and at Pepperdine on Saturday, Jan. 11. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m., with UCSD's home opener coming up on Saturday, Jan. 18, inside RIMAC Arena against 2013 national runner-up BYU.


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