LOS ANGELES - The UC San Diego men’s volleyball team was defeated by fifth-ranked USC, 3-0, in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) opener for both sides Friday night at the Galen Center. Set scores were 25-17, 25-23, 25-22.
With the result, UCSD fell to 0-2 overall and 0-1 in MPSF play. USC moved to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in league action. The Tritons had swept the two-match season series from the Trojans for the first time in program history in 2013.
The opening set was tied early at 5-5 as an ace by redshirt junior outside hitter Scot Metzger followed a Trojan service error. A Lucas Yoder ace later made it 13-9 in favor of USC and forced the night’s first timeout by Triton head coach Kevin Ring. The four-point run extended the Trojan lead to 15-9. UCSD was unable to get closer than within four points over the remainder of the frame.
Senior outside hitter Nick Iorfino had four kills on four swings for a perfect 1.000 attack percentage, with one assist and one ace. USC, however, hit an impressive .704 (19-0-27) as a team without a single error.
The Trojans trotted out to a 6-2 advantage in the second set as the Tritons called for time. The home side charged ahead at 13-6, but UCSD gradually chipped away at the deficit, and a combination block by senior opposite Johl Awerkamp and redshirt freshman middle Mathew Schnitzer made the score 20-18. A Trojan hitting error moments later knotted it at 22-22 as USC took its first timeout of the evening.
A tight third set featured nine tie scores and four lead changes. Three straight aces by junior USC setter Micah Christenson punctuated a four-point run that broke a 10-10 deadlock, but the Tritons would not quit. Iorfino ended the stretch with a kill, and added his second ace to cut it back to 14-13. UCSD grabbed another brief one-point edge at 16-15 on a Metzger kill, and later was again down just one at 22-21 after successive kills by Brunsting and Schnitzer. Coming out of a Trojan timeout, the Tritons surrendered three out of the final four points, through two serves into the net and an attack off the antenna, and USC had completed the sweep.
Metzger and Schnitzer shared the team high with six kills apiece for the Tritons, with Schnitzer adding five total blocks. They were Schnitzer’s first six collegiate kills and a career high in blocks. Brunsting wound up with 17 assists and a team-high seven digs. Awerkamp contributed four kills, four digs and a career-best five blocks. Redshirt freshman Ganesh Elie drew a first career start at middle blocker.
“USC got off to a great start in game one and although we hit okay, we didn’t do enough to slow their offense,” remarked Ring. “Game two, we did a much better job of pressuring USC with our serve and better blocking.
“Mathew Schnitzer did a great job coming in and providing some offense in the middle as he hit 0.556. Scot Metzger also did a nice job chipping in with six kills while hitting 0.385. Our goal is to have a more balanced offense with production at each position as well as improved defense.”
Yoder, a freshman outside hitter and the reigning national and conference Player of the Week after just his college debut at Loyola Chicago last Saturday, put down 13 kills for USC, hitting .706 (13-1-17). Alex Slaught produced a match-high 14 kills. Christenson finished with two kills, 42 assists, three aces and eight digs. Libero Henry Cassiday had a match-high nine digs.
UCSD heads to Malibu to take on sixth-ranked Pepperdine in another MPSF tilt at the Firestone Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan. 11, beginning at 7 p.m. The Waves knocked off third-ranked and two-time defending national champion UC Irvine, 3-1, at home in their season opener Friday night.