The UC Riverside women’s volleyball team suffered a crushing loss against UC San Diego 2-3 in set play on Friday night. Going into this game, the Highlanders won three out of their past five games and were looking to ride that momentum against a very tough Triton team, who won their past two games. UCR held a commanding 2-0 set lead but was unable to close out the game as UCSD came storming back.

The first set started out strong for UC Riverside as they jumped out to an early 4-1 set lead. It was a team effort to start out for the Highlanders as many outside hitters for UCR contributed to multiple kills. Senior outside hitter Mylei Vargas-Deason started to make her mark in the game as she recorded back-to-back kills for UC Riverside to give them an 11-7 lead. The Tritons kept the first set close as they were able to respond with their own kills and aces after the Highlanders would go on a run of their own. However, a couple of errors from UCSD gave UCR a 17-15 lead, and the Highlanders would run away with the set as Vargas-Deason would record another kill to give the first set win to the Highlanders 25-19.

UC Riverside continued their momentum in their second set as they jumped out to an early 7-1 set lead. Again, the team effort of the Highlanders led the way on the offense with multiple outside hitters getting the job done with kills and aces. Sophomore outside hitter Sophia Ewalefo started to make her presence known with a couple of kills to give UCR an 11-4 lead. UC San Diego was unable to keep up with the charging offense of UC Riverside as the Highlanders kept laying kill after kill. Junior libero Tylee Fuller laid the hammer with an ace to give UCR a dominant 25-12 set win, leading 2-0 in set play with just one more set win to go. Ewalefo led the way with six kills in the set.

The Tritons were not going to go out without swinging, as they matched the Highlander’s intensity to start out the third inning. Both teams exchanged rallies after rallies as neither school wanted to give up momentum. As the set continued to climb toward the target score of 25, both teams were neck and neck on the scoreboard. However, it was UCSD that was able to string a streak of winning rallies. With the score being 18-16 in favor of UC San Diego, it was junior outside hitter Ava McInnes who led the way, recording multiple aces and kills to give the Tritons their first set win of the match, 25-18. 

Momentum started to shift toward UC San Diego as they used their momentum from their last set to jump out to an early 8-4 lead in the fourth set. UC Riverside struggled to respond to the quick momentum shift as a couple of kills from sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Saran gave UCSD a 13-6 set lead. Vargas-Deason was able to respond with back-to-back kills to inch UCR back into the set, but McInnes proved to be too much as she connected on three kills in four rallies to extend the set lead to 17-8 for UC San Diego. The Tritons were able to close out the set with a 25-14 set win with McInnes leading the way, tying the match up at 2-2 and the match headed toward a fifth set to determine the winner of the match. 

It seemed like the Highlanders had lost all momentum going into the fifth set after leading 2-0 in the match. UC Riverside fell behind early 7-3 but started to rally with Vargas-Deason leading the way with back-to-back aces and Ewalefo recorded another kill to tie the set at 7-7. Things started to get tense as the target score was 15 instead of the regular 25. UC San Diego started to pull away with McInnes recording a kill and a service error from UCR, which gave UCSD a 14-11 lead, one rally win away from winning the match. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Rapp was able to deliver a kill to give the Tritons the set win 15-12 and the match win, 3-2.

Vargas-Deason and Ewalefo lead the way for the Highlanders as Vargas-Deason recorded 17 kills and Ewalefo recorded 13 kills. Vargas-Deason also had a game high 4 aces as well. Sophomore outside hitter Jessica Dean led UCR with 23 digs in the match.

The Highlanders drop down to 4-15 (3-4) on the season and will take on UC Davis at home on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m.