Men's Volleyball Preview
This season, the men’s volleyball team goes forward after graduating Phil Bannan, who head coach Kevin Ring called “probably the best player we’ve ever had.”Written by Rachel Uda
11 January 2012
Bannan — All-MPSF Second Team selection as well as UCSD school record holder in assists and service aces — is replaced by sophomore setter Mike Brunsting, brother of senior All-American UCSD outside hitter Roxanne Brunsting.
The sophomore leads the Tritons with 77 assists this season.
“New players, either returners who played a back-up role the previous year or new players to this year’s squad are now put in a position where they can take the reins,” Ring said. “Mike Brunsting, a back-up setter last season, is now our starting setter. Sebastian Brady started last year as a freshman, but with Calvin Ross finishing his eligibility we now have Greg Smith and Fred Stahl geared up and ready to play the middle blocker position.”
In 2012, UCSD will contend with inexperience while in one of the most competitive conferences in the country.
With only one senior on the roster, UCSD’s starting seven is made up of five underclassmen and two juniors — freshmen Chris Andrullis and Kevin McGinnis, sophomores Mike Brunsting, Vaun Lennon and Sebastian Brady.
“Where there is a lack of match experience there is also a level of ‘youthful’ exuberance,” Ring said. “I like the hard work and dedication of the guys on this year’s squad. We want to raise our ‘low end’ level of play, at the same time working to raise the bar for how well we can play. If we can do both, we’ll be making incremental improvements throughout the season.”
UCSD is 2-2 in 2012, beating Brandon College in an exhibition match 3-1 before splitting games with the University of Hawaii.
Playing at the University of Hawaii campus, UCSD lost the first match in straight sets, but rebounded on the following day to win 3-0.
Ring’s young squad seems to be stepping up to the learning curve. In their 0-3 loss to Hawaii, the Tritons recorded a .000 hitting percentage on 26 kills and 26 errors.
The next day, UCSD rallied to upset No. 11 Hawaii in a game that was broadcast on Fox College Sports Pacific.
In the campaign, Eberts led the Tritons with a match-high 14 kills, along with three service aces and five assists.
Brunsting did well in directing the offense, setting up opportunities for Andrullis, who finished with six kills, and junior opposite Johl Awerkamp, who recorded eight kills.
“After some adjustments on our part we came back and beat Hawaii in three sets the second night, earning our first ever victory over the Univ. of Hawaii in Hawaii,” Ring said. “It was a nice confidence boost for this team to get an MPSF road victory so early in the season.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, No. 14 Loyola-Chicago swept the Tritons in their first official home game of the season.
In the first set, the Tritons raced out to a 6-1 lead off three consecutive points from Lennon. But the momentum then swung to Loyola-Chicago’s side, as the Ramblers ended the set 21-25.
UCSD kept it close in the second set, going down 23-25, and forced the overtime in the third set, although UCSD faltered defensively and ultimately fell 25-27.
The Tritons were just edged in kills, with the Ramblers tallying 40 to the Tritons’ 37.
But UCSD really struggled on its side of the net.
The Tritons committed 22 errors to Loyola-Chicagos’ 13.
Lennon led the Tritons in the attack with 13 kills, a season high for the sophomore, while fellow sophomore Brady put up substantial figures, with nine kills on two errors.
But UCSD’s normal standout, junior Eberts had a difficult night, ending the game with a -.071 hitting percentage, recording seven kills on nine errors.
The loss drops the Tritons back down to .500.
UCSD will now look to bounce back, as the players hit the road in preparation for two more non-league matches in the Grand Canyon tournament to be held in Phoenix, Ariz.
On Saturday, Jan. 14, the Tritons face the New Jersey Institute of Technology and on Sunday, Jan. 15, UCSD will take on the hosts, Grand Canyon University.
The Tritons’ next MPSF match will be against the top team in the country, No. 1 UC Irvine, but Ring says UCSD is all too excited for the bout.
“That’s the challenge and excitement of competing in the MPSF conference,” Ring said. “We face the best night after night.”