SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC San Diego men's volleyball team gave three of the top seven teams in the nation all they could handle at the UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational.
The unranked Tritons (1-2) came from behind to force a fifth set for a third straight contest to open their 2013 campaign, this time taking No. 7 Long Beach State (2-1) to the wire, but ultimately were dealt a 3-2 defeat in the third-place match of the 49th installment of the annual two-day, eight-team tourney at Robertson Gymnasium on Saturday. Set scores were 21-25, 25-21, 25-18, 16-25 and 15-12.
The fourth-place effort is UCSD's best at the UCSB Invitational. The Tritons toppled No. 5 Lewis on Friday morning before being edged by No. 6 UCLA later that night, both by the identical match score of 3-2 after dropping the first two sets.
Neither team had a lead of more than two points throughout the early stages of a tight first set. A stuff block by juniors Sebastian Brady and Vaun Lennon on a Dalton Ammerman attack finally gave the Tritons a three-point cushion at 15-12, and another 49er attack error forced the first timeout.
A block by Brady and Cheyne Hayes, again off of Ammerman, later made it 21-18 in favor of UCSD. After the sides traded service errors, an awry attack brought on a second timeout by the 49ers as they trailed, 23-19. At 23-20, the teams again traded service mistakes, with a Hayes kill from a Garrett Dempsey assist giving UCSD the first-set victory, 25-21.
Tied at 2-2 in set number two, Long Beach State rolled off five consecutive points before a Hayes solo block on Taylor Crabb ended the run. Three Triton points in a row, including kills by outside hitters Lennon and Carl Eberts, knotted matters again at 10-10. UCSD surged ahead, 14-11, with a four-point run, courtesy of back-to-back 49er attacking errors around two more Eberts kills.
The set was even again at 18-18, with Long Beach State eventually taking a 23-19 lead. The Tritons scored the next two points, but the 49ers took it, 25-21, to even the match at one set apiece.
Long Beach State put together an early five-point stretch in the third set as well, and then took control at 8-1 with two more points after a UCSD timeout. The Tritons did not get closer than to within five points from there, dropping the frame, 25-18.
With UCSD up by three at 5-2 in the fourth set, the teams traded points until 11-8, when a Hayes kill gave the Tritons a four-point advantage. At 14-13, UCSD produced a seven-point outburst to take command, with six of those points served by Brady, including an ace. Hayes had three kills, with Lennon adding a pair. The Tritons forced a fifth and deciding set on another Hayes kill, 25-16.
UCSD continued its hot streak into that fifth set, collecting the first three points with a kill and an ace by Lennon around a solo block by fellow junior Fred Stahl to force a 49er timeout. With the final stanza eventually knotted at 9-9, however, three straight points gave LBSU the separation it needed to take the set, 15-12, and the match, 3-2.
Hayes, a redshirt sophomore, finished with career highs of 18 kills and 15 digs for his first collegiate double-double. He hit .424 on the night with just four errors in 33 swings. Lennon added 16 kills, while Eberts and Nick Iorfino contributed seven apiece. Libero Kevin McGinnis provided 11 digs while fellow sophomore Dempsey had 44 assists. Stahl put down six kills without an error in eight attempts.
Lennon was named to the All-Tournament Team alongside six other players. Top-ranked defending national champion UC Irvine outlasted UCLA in the title match, 3-2, with the Anteaters' junior middle blocker Collin Mehring earning MVP selection.
UCSD plays both its 2013 home and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener this Thursday night, Jan. 10. The Tritons welcome the ninth-ranked USC Trojans into RIMAC Arena for a 7 p.m. first serve as they begin a three-match homestand.
UCSB Asics Invitational All-Tournament Team
Vaun Lennon, UC San Diego
Connor Olbright, Long Beach State
Dylan Davis, UC Santa Barbara
Robart Page, UCLA
Evan Mottram, UCLA
Connor Hughes, UC Irvine
MVP: Collin Mehring, UC Irvine
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