In the second-to-last home game for the team, UC San Diego’s women’s volleyball team looked to finish well in an up-and-down season. While the future is surely bright with the young team in their first year on the Division I scene, this program certainly wants to send the seniors off with a bang. UCSD (10–20, 7–12 Big West) faced off against an experienced and talented California State University, Bakersfield team (18–9, 11–8 Big West) and took them to the very end. Despite playing hard, the Tritons couldn’t get the win, losing in five sets: 25–19, 19–25, 25–21, 15–25, and 15–13.
This match started off with good energy from both sides, with the will to win obvious in the effort the teams were putting in early. Senior setter Isabela Dobra was controlling the game and keeping the Tritons in their system, and set 4 of the first 5 points for the Tritons, knotting the first game at 5. The nerves for UCSD showed though, with a big run coming from CSUB to hand the Tritons an almost insurmountable 12–5 deficit; the response would be crucial in determining the rest of this match for the Tritons.
They answered by scoring 5 of the next 7 points, highlighted by 2 straight points set by senior libero Susanna Limb and killed by freshman outside hitter Zaria Henderson, to put the score at a manageable 14–10. A kill from senior opposite Trinity Castañeda, one of her season-high 17, put the Tritons within 5 again, but the Tritons didn’t get within 4 again and dropped the set by a score of 25–19.
The Tritons were not done yet, and it showed as the start of the second set seemed especially competitive. Each team went back and forth, with 5 ties, until the Tritons scored 3 in a row to give them an 8–6 lead, highlighted by two pristine sets by Dobra to Henderson and Castañeda. With the offense starting to look crisper, the team was getting in rhythm. The Tritons regained the lead with two points from a dominant-looking Henderson, and Dobra followed it up with a service ace that truly shifted the momentum squarely to the Tritons’ side.
With the set nearing its end and the score tight, the Tritons pulled off a clutch 4–0 run, giving them a 22–18 lead after sophomore outside hitter Ava McInnes punctuated the run with an impressive kill. McInnes’ service ace soon after awarded the Tritons the set at 25–19.
Another of McInnes’ four service aces of the game gave the Tritons a 9–4 lead, and the Tritons were now taking control of the match. Still, CSUB didn’t go away and kept the set close until the end. UCSD eventually relinquished the lead, and uncharacteristic attack and service errors clinched the third set at 25–21 for CSUB.
While disappointed, just as before UCSD came out inspired and took an 8–3 lead, once again ending with a McInnes ace. A set from junior libero Naya Dong to McInnes made the advantage 15–10, and the Tritons were looking to force a deciding set. Limb starred in a 5–0 run, making her presence known all over the court with great bumps keeping the offense together, and propelling the Tritons to a commanding 21–13 lead. McInnes’ last service ace gave the Tritons a 4–0 run, and also gave the Tritons the fourth set by a score of 25–15.
A kill from the dependable senior Castañeda started the Tritons off up 3–1, hoping to eke out a tough victory against their formidable opponent in a deciding fifth set. Similarly to before, the lead changed hands over and over again, with many ties. A kill by McInnes once again tied the game at 11, and the game would come down to a few final points with both teams looking to give everything they had to will their way to victory.
Bakersfield scored 2 in a row, but McInnes responded with 2 kills of her own to knot the score at 13. But after a quick Bakersfield kill, McInnes had a shot blocked to end the game in the Roadrunners’ favor, 15–13, but the Triton team certainly gave the game their all and had many impressive moments in what was a heart-wrenching loss.
McInnes led the Tritons with 23 kills and 4 aces, and Castañeda and Henderson weren’t far behind with 17 and 14 kills, respectively. Dobra had her second-best assist tally of the season with 60, while Dong had her second-best dig total with 26.
The Tritons played their last game of the season the night after, a straight-set loss to California State University, Fullerton, and due to NCAA classification rules, will not be eligible for the postseason. This team has a promising future with all their young stars, and they will look to improve in their second season in Division I in 2022.
Image courtesy of Derrick Tuskan / UC San Diego Athletics