The University of California San Diego men’s volleyball team saw its season come to an end Thursday as it was defeated, 3-0, by UC Irvine in the opening round of the second annual Big West Conference Tournament at the University of Hawaii’s Stan Sheriff Center.
Scores were 26-24, 25-15, and 25-14 in favor of ninth-ranked and third-seeded UCI, which advances to face No. 1-ranked and second-seeded Hawaii in a semifinal Friday.
UC San Diego, the tournament’s sixth seed, completes its season at 7-20.
The Tritons struggled to sustain an offensive rhythm and finished with an .078 hitting percentage, putting down 28 kills with 22 errors in 77 attack attempts. It was their third-lowest percentage of the season. The Anteaters were strong at the net, holding a 12-3 advantage in blocks.
Sophomore outside hitter Wyatt Harrison led UC San Diego with seven kills and a .353 hitting percentage. Redshirt junior outside Xander Jimenez had a solid all-around performance, finishing with six kills, a team-high five digs, four assists, and three blocks (one solo). Junior setter Connor Walbrecht had 18 assists, three digs, two kills, and two service aces.
The Tritons started off strong and were ahead for most of the opening set. They had set point at 24-22, but UCI scored four straight points on a kill and three blocks to take the 1-0 lead. UC San Diego ended up hitting .296 in the set, but was over .600 in the second half of the frame.
In the second set, UC Irvine got out to a 7-4 advantage and then used an 8-1 run to get up 15-5. UC San Diego got back within seven at 20-13, helped by back-to-back kills by Harrison and Jimenez. The Anteaters called a timeout and returned to the floor to score five of the of next seven points to take a 2-0 lead in the match. The Tritons dropped to .040 on their attack while the Anteaters hit .500.
UC San Diego was held to a -.120 hitting percentage in the third set. Tied 2-2, UC Irvine scored twice and would hold a lead the rest of the way, hitting .409 in the stanza.
It was the third meeting between UC San Diego and UC Irvine this season. The Anteaters won both previous matches – one in four sets and the other in five sets. The two squads played each other in the opening round of the 2018 conference tournament as well with UCI winning in straight sets.
Thursday’s late first round match features No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara against No. 5 seed CSUN. The winner will take on top-seeded Long Beach State in Friday’s other semifinal.
The Big West championship match is slated for Saturday with the winner earning an automatic berth in the NCAA tourney. Long Beach State won the inaugural title in 2018 by sweeping Hawaii in the final.
2019 Big West Conference Tournament
Stan Sheriff Center • Honolulu, Hawai’i
Thursday, April 18 – First Round
#3 UC Irvine 3, #6 UC San Diego 0
10:30 p.m. PT: #5 CSUN vs. #4 UC Santa Barbara
Friday, April 19 – Semifinals
8 p.m. PT: Winner 4/5 vs. #1 Long Beach State
10:30 p.m. PT: #3 UC Irvine vs. #2 Hawaii
Saturday, April 20 – Final
11 p.m. PT: Championship match
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