The UC San Diego men's volleyball team continues Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play this week, first hosting California Baptist before facing its final road trip of the season. The Tritons take on the Lancers inside RIMAC Arena on Thursday night, March 13, beginning at 7 p.m. They then fly to Salt Lake City, Utah, the next day for a 6 p.m. PT match-up with third-ranked BYU in Provo on Saturday, March 15. That match will mark UCSD's national television debut for 2014, with the broadcast available live on BYUtv.
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, including Saturday's at BYU, which will be on national television as well on BYUtv (check listings). 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 @BYUvolleyball this Saturday.
ABOUT THE LANCERS
California Baptist (4-15, 2-14 MPSF) lost 3-0 at home against No. 8 UC Irvine on Wednesday night. Set scores were 25-22, 25-18, 25-23. Johannes Brink was the only Lancer to finish with double-digit kills, at 13, with setter Kevin Kustura collecting 34 assists and six digs. Brink leads the team offensively for the year at 3.98 kills per set. CBU has lost three straight overall, all in straight sets, and 11 in a row in conference play since a 3-1 home triumph over Pacific back on Jan. 23. The Lancers are 0-8 away from home in 2014. Wes Schneider is in his second season as the head coach at CBU, which is in just its second year in the MPSF.
CBU leads the all-time series, 18-7. The Lancers pulled out a five-set victory over the Tritons earlier this season on Jan. 16 at Van Dyne Gym in Riverside. That match-up culminated in a 20-18 decision in the final set. The teams split their two meetings in 2013 as first-time MPSF rivals, 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.
ABOUT THE COUGARS
No. 3 BYU (13-4, 13-2 MPSF) is in first place in the MPSF and hosts No. 8 UC Irvine on Friday night in another rematch of the 2013 national title match prior to welcoming in the Tritons to Smith Fieldhouse. The Cougars were the MPSF co-favorites this season alongside Long Beach State. Senior outside hitter Taylor Sander, the 2013 MPSF Player of the Year, averages 4.58 kills per set and has a team-best 31 service aces. He ranks second in the league in both categories, as well as points. Sophomore setter and La Jolla native Tyler Heap (La Jolla HS) hands out 10.57 assists per set. He is one of four San Diego products on the Cougar roster. 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.
UCSD has never beaten BYU, in 35 tries. The Cougars posted a pair of three-set sweeps in 2013, and another in La Jolla in this season's first meeting back on Jan. 18.
THREE DOUBLE-DOUBLES FOR BRUNSTING
Senior Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) is the only current UCSD player with a double-double, with three now 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).
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. The 16 digs by Howard signified the most by a Triton in 2014. He contributed a team-high six digs the following night vs. UCSB.
Brunsting is No. 8 on the all-time Triton list with 1,591 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 ... Through matches played on March 8, Dempsey ranks 10th in the MPSF in assists (8.51/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 five matches this year in double-digit kills. Since his move out of the setter spot, he has provided a career-high 18 kills vs. GCU (2/28), and 17 vs. Pepperdine (2/15) after going for 12 vs. USC (2/14). Brunsting had a team-high 12 kills at Cal State Northridge (2/19) and 11 vs. UCLA (1/30). Senior outside hitter Nick Iorfino had a season-best 14 kills at Pacific (2/8), 12 at California Baptist (1/16), a match-high 12 more at Hawai'i (1/26) and 11 vs. UCLA (1/30). Senior opposite Johl Awerkamp 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 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 vs. CBU), and redshirt sophomore outside hitters Eric Barber (career-high 10 at CSUN and vs. GCU) and Kirill Rudenko (12 vs. GCU). Brunsting (11 at UOP; 10 vs. GCU, 2/28) and liberos Howard (16 vs. GCU), 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 last weekend, 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 on Jan. 18 forced him back to a spot in which he had played sparingly in the past, opposite hitter. Last Friday night at UC 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.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD fell to a pair of 3-0 road defeats at top-seven opponents UC Santa Barbara on March 7 and UCLA on March 8. Having recovered from an injury suffered during the Jan. 18 home opener, Awerkamp returned to the court and put down a team-high nine kills to go along with four total blocks at UCSB. He had missed 12 matches.
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 67-182 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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UCSD returns from Utah and takes a break for winter quarter final exams. The Tritons then conclude the 2014 season with a six-match homestand beginning on Thursday, March 27, against No. 2 Long Beach State.