The UC San Diego men's volleyball team finally concludes a season-opening stretch of nine of its first 11 matches away from home this week. The Tritons take on a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) opponents in No. 7 Stanford at Maples Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 7, and unranked Pacific at the Spanos Center on Saturday, Feb. 8. First serve for both matches is set for 7 p.m.
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 will also have video, including both this week, with audio. Friday's Stanford broadcast is through the Pac-12 Networks portal. 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 @StanfordMVB and @PacificMenVball this week.
ABOUT THE CARDINAL
No. 7 Stanford (5-4, 2-4 MPSF) is coming off of back-to-back weekend splits in league play. The Cardinal swept Cal State Northridge last Saturday, following a five-set defeat to Long Beach State the night before. Stanford is 3-1 at home on the year. UCSD's 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 collegiate debut in his hometown at UC Santa Barbara (Dos Pueblos HS) on Jan. 4. 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, 41-3, and has won the last five meetings. 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.
ABOUT THE TIGERS
Pacific (1-8, 0-6 MPSF), like UCSD, is looking for its first MPSF victory of the 2014 season. The Tigers have dropped eight straight since a 3-1 victory over Cal State Northridge in their opener at the Asics Invitational in Santa Barbara. UOP hosts UC Irvine on Friday night prior to entertaining UCSD. Saturday's contest appears to be the Tritons' final foray into Stockton, as Pacific announced late last August that the men's volleyball program would be cut following the 2014 campaign. Joe Wortmann is in his 22nd season in charge of the Tigers.
UOP holds a 35-6 advantage in the all-time series, and has won six straight with successive season sweeps in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Tigers won 3-1 at home and 3-2 in La Jolla last season. Prior to this stretch, the Tritons had taken six consecutive meetings, with sweeps in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
UCSD has played only twice at home over its first nine matches ... 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 three 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 1,572 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).
Outside hitter Nick Iorfino has a team-best three double-digit kills performances on the year. Opposite and fellow senior Johl Awerkamp has two, with a season-high 18 kills vs. BYU (1/18). Iorfino and Awerkamp have 17 and 14 such matches, respectively, for their Triton careers. Iorfino contributed a season-best 12 kills vs. BYU and a match-high 12 more at Hawai'i (1/26). The only other double-digit kills efforts so far in 2014 have come from Brunsting with 11 vs. UCLA (1/30), and redshirt freshman middle blocker Mathew Schnitzer with 13 vs. BYU.
LAST TIME OUT
UCSD was swept by top-ranked UCLA at home on Thursday, Jan. 30, and again at then-eighth-ranked two-time defending national champion UC Irvine the following night. Brunsting and Iorfino had 11 kills apiece against the Bruins, when the Tritons hit a season-best .302 (38-12-86).
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 fourth-year junior Scot 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 thus far. Most recently, freshman middle blocker Shayne Beamer appeared vs. UCLA (1/30). 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 66-173 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.
After the trip to the Bay Area, UCSD is finally set to enjoy its first home weekend of the 2014 season, welcoming No. 5 USC into RIMAC Arena on Friday, Feb. 14, and No. 3 Pepperdine on Saturday, Feb. 15, both at 7 p.m. The Tritons will remain in La Jolla for 11 of their last 16 contests.