No. 8 Triton Volleyball Falls to No. 6 Grand Canyon in Top-10 Battle

UC San Diego’s 8eThe ranked men’s volleyball team endured the toughest test of the season yet when they hosted Grand Canyon University No. 6 on Friday, January 21. But the Tritons (2-1) couldn’t go undefeated all season. a close defeat to the GCU Antelopes in four sets, 25-21, 25-19, 24-26, 25-20.

The Tritons entered Friday’s game after winning both games the week before, a 3-1 win over Harvard in the season opener and a straight-set loss to No. 12 Stanford. Meanwhile, the Antelopes came into play after two 3-1 wins against No. 14 McKendree University and two 0-3 losses against No. 4 Pennsylvania State University.

UCSD started scoring when their star senior, outside hitter Kyle McCauley, deftly made a kill to the back corner to lead 1-0. Both teams traded small runs early in the set, but a 7-2 run that started with a missed serve from senior center blocker Logan Clark put the Antelopes in the lead, 10-7. Under 13-9, however, Clark got a kill in the middle of the GCU block, McCauley got an ace and then followed it up with a well-placed attack on the backline to bring the Tritons within one; after a subsequent GCU kill, UCSD rattled 4 more points to take a 16-14 lead. But the Antelopes came on another 7-1 point late in the set to take a 23-19 lead, and they finished the set peaking towards the center of the field, 25-21.

GCU kept up their momentum in the second set, scoring the first three runs, but two consecutive Antelope offense errors tied the set at 5 shortly after. The Tritons got a spark halfway through the set, trailing 10-8, as they scored 4 in a row, capped off by a block from senior outside hitter Charlie Siragusa bouncing out of bounds off the head of a GCU player. But the Antelopes responded with 4 consecutive runs of their own and they held the lead for the rest of the set, taking the 2-0 lead, 25-19.

Grand Canyon came back strong into the set, going up 5-1 after three consecutive offense errors by UCSD, sending the Tritons against the wall in a set to be won. But two GCU errors and a McCauley ace put UCSD back in hitting distance, and they would take an 8-7 lead over a towering block from senior center blocker Shane Benetz and redshirt junior outside hitter Ryan Ka. Both teams would battle back and forth in the third set, with neither team taking an even 2-point lead until a 3-0 run by GCU gave them a 22-20 lead.

But a powerful kill from sophomore center blocker Nick Rigo, followed by a deft poke over the net by Ka, tied the set up to 22. The Antelopes, looking for the Tritons, scored a quick kill, and McCauley sent the next point with lightning speed. past the endline to set a match point for GCU, giving them two chances to finish the match and beat UCSD. The Tritons weren’t going to go away so easily, though, with a kill from senior outside hitter Wyatt Harrison and a block on the next game, tying the set up at 24. At the next point, McCauley made a great effort to keep the ball in play, and Harrison scored the point to give UCSD a tie. On the next game, they took advantage of that opportunity when Benetz made a block on the GCU return and handed the Tritons set four, 26-24.

With their first set in hand, UCSD looked good to open the fourth set and quickly moved up 4-1. But the Antelopes defeated the Tritons by five consecutive runs, including three straight service aces from their Camden Gianni, to make it 6-4. The Antelopes extended their lead to 4, 11-7, shortly after on a 3-0 run that was capped by a kill from Gianni. Grand Canyon and UCSD traded points along the stretch, but the Tritons couldn’t equalize because they stayed on the back foot. UCSD narrowed the lead to 20-18 over an ace from freshman setter Gabriel Dyer, but they got no closer as Gianni closed the game for the Antelopes, 25-20.

McCauley led the Tritons with 16 kills in the loss, followed by Harrison with 11, and senior setter Blake Crisp had 37 assists. Overall, the Tritons defeated the Antelopes 49-45, but were outhit by GCU, .267 to .184, causing eight more errors.

“I thought we had moments, but we just didn’t string them together enough,” said UCSD head coach Kevin Ring. “They were the aggressors in a variety of areas, from serving to attacking.”

After losing to Grand Canyon, UCSD will take a two-game road trip in New Jersey to take on the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Friday, January 28 and Princeton University on ESPN+ on Saturday, January 29, before playing college. . of Southern California in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 2.

Image Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan/UC San Diego Athletics

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