The game lasted a brief 75 minutes, though the Tritons improved their play in each set. UCSD attack averages went from .121 in the first set to .300 in the second and .333 in the third. The Anteaters’ averages were .290, .667, and .429; the team also out-blocked 12.5 to UCSD’s 5.0. UC Irvine also committed seven service errors to the Tritons’ 14.
“Give [UCI] a lot of credit; they are heading into the playoffs on a really high note, No. 3 in the country, and that’s a team that can challenge No. 1 USC and No. 2 BYU,” head coach Kevin Ring said. “They showed us some respect that they didn’t step off the gas; they came in and played well start to finish.”
The Tritons ended their season with 9-20 overall and 5-17 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation to tie for 10th place in the league with Cal State Northridge and University of the Pacific.
Before the game began, the four seniors on the team were honored for their time: setter Phil Bannan, outside hitter Joel Davidson, middle blocker Calvin Ross and middle blocker Paul Spitsen.
Bannan has had an impressive career with a total of 4,399 assists, 110 aces, 522 digs and 277 blocks. He holds school records for both assists and aces, and is third in blocks and fifth in digs. In the match against UC Irvine, Bannan collected 36 assists, six digs, an ace and a block.
“A guy like Phil Bannan has been a starter for three-plus years, almost four years straight,” Ring said. “He is really one of the best players we have ever had in the program, really consistent, and when you don’t have him out there, you really see just how good he really is.”
Davidson finished with a double-digit kill for the sixth time this season, with 12 kills against the Anteaters.
“Joel Davidson was a captain for us and he has a good perspective about the team and what we can do,” Ring said. “He has been in and out of the lineup this year, but he has been on the court when we have run some nice matches, so that is a credit to him.”
Ross collected 361 blocks in his career, three of which were against UC Irvine. He holds the top block record for UCSD. Ross has collected 575 kills — two of which were in the match against UC Irvine this weekend — and 156 errors in 1,125 attacks over four years.
“Calvin Ross has become a distinctive blocker and he had a nice year,” Ring said. “He is a great middle blocker and he had a pretty solid year offensively.”
Spitsen was redshirted as a freshman and did not see a lot of playtime this season, but he started against UC Irvine and proved his worth with five kills — a career-high. He also matched his career-best .333 attack percentage.
“Paul Spitsen has been a backup middle for us, but he came out and did a good job tonight,” Ring said. “I am really impressed that he has continued to work.”
The season was an inconsistent one for the Tritons. The team often had its best performances on the road, and had several huge upset wins only to be swept by the same teams in their next meeting. Nevertheless, it was not a bad year for the Tritons, as the team remained competitive in a league in which it is the only Division-II school.
“Over the last few years, this one has been one of the top four in our seasons as far as ranking, number of wins, and conference, so we can look back and say we did a lot of really good things,” Ring said. “We did leave some things on the table that we didn’t accomplish; we had a few opportunities that we let slip by, and we can be disappointed with that.”
Ring is already looking to the future and hopes for a good season next year.
“We have a nice group of guys returning, some that have some experience: Nick Iorfino, Sebastion Brady, Vaun Lennon, Mike Brunsting, Chase Frishman — and we have some guys coming in next year,” Ring said. “We just have to get to work. Next year we haven’t won a match yet and we haven’t lost a match yet. You go into it and you have to work hard; there are no guarantees.”