UC San Diego women’s volleyball Coach Doug Dannevik said after Friday’s semifinals he welcomed the challenge of meeting host Washington University in Saturday’s championship final.
What Dannevik didn’t expect was for the second-ranked Bears to play so well on their home court. Washington rallied late for a 14-16, 15-6, 9-15, 15-13, 15-8 victory over top-ranked UCSD in front of a NCAA Division III-record 3,423 fans.
The title is Washington’s second in three seasons. UCSD captured the title last season in five games, ruining the Bears’ chance to repeat. Washington (42-4) returned the favor Saturday.
“I don’t think we played very well,” Dannevik said. "(Washington’s) game was better than ours. Plus, they raised their game when they had to and we didn’t.”
The loss was the Tritons’ first to a Division III foe this season. UCSD was 16-1 against those schools and finished with a 26-6 mark.
Triton junior outside hitter Liz Vesanovic said her teammates never got into their game plan or the flow of the game.
“I was surprised by our play,” Vesanovic said. “We didn’t come together as a team very well. It’s the first time we haven’t played that well in a long time.”
The Tritons downplayed the effect of the boisterous crowd.
“No effect, really,” Vesanovic said. “We were used to it after playing here last year.”
Leading two games to one, UCSD suffered a critical breakdown in the match’s fourth game. UCSD got out to an 11-7 lead and seemed to be rolling towards the school’s seventh Division III championship in 11 seasons.
“At that point, I thought that we might steal the match,” Dannevik said. “Maybe we let up; I’m not sure. We didn’t play as aggressive, and we started hoping they would make mistakes.”
The Bears went on a 8-3 run to capture the fourth game and get their fans back into the game.
“Certainly we were worried after they went up 11-4 in that game, but we started blocking well at that point and that was the big difference,” Washington Coach Teri Clemens said.
The Bears took that momentum into the decisive game and captured the first four points. They never trailed by more than that.
“We tried like crazy, to our credit, but we never could hang in there,” Dannevik said.
“I’m not disappointed. I was surprised by Wash. U.'s game plan. They got their big hitters against our weakest blockers and it worked for them.”
Sophomore Julie Fabian and senior Vikki Van Duyne of UCSD were named all-tournament.