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Bannan, UCSD stun UCI

Corona del Mar High product triggers Tritons' upset of host Anteaters in MPSF opener Wednesday.

January 12, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

IRVINE — After unranked UC San Diego stunned host UC Irvine in four games in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball opener Wednesday night, Tritons' senior hero Phil Bannan put forth the notion that it may not have been an upset.

Moments later, UCI Coach John Speraw said he certainly hoped his No. 7-ranked team, which had been picked to win a share of the MPSF championship in a preseason poll and is now 2-3 after opening the season ranked No. 2, was at the very least, upset.

"You know we aren't a very good volleyball team yet," said Speraw, whose team had won five straight and 32 of 38 matches over UCSD coming in. "I hope [the players are angry]. I'd like to see some of that. You don't see that on the court right now. I was feeling it, certainly, in the middle of the match."

Speraw said defense, serving, a lack of cohesion between two setters and junior All-American opposite Carson Clark, who missed fall workouts to play and train with the U.S. national team, were all factors that allowed UCSD (2-2) to pull off a 16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 30-28 triumph.

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But Speraw also pointed to the play of Bannan, a Corona del Mar High product, who paced the winners with 41 assists and five aces, while adding eight digs, two block assists and two kills.

"The thing that jumps out at you is just what Phil Bannan did from the service line," Speraw said. "[The Tritons] had nine aces [to just three for UCI] and he had five of them. He played great. I think he was the difference in the match. He's a senior and he's a good volleyball player, so he is going to make those things happen. And when you have a couple close games, an ace or two here or there makes a difference."

Bannan had an crucial ace to break an 18-18 tie in Game 3. Using a potent left-handed jump serve, he also pounded back-to-back aces to open Game 4, which he finally ended on the fourth match point with his final ace.

"I had some good tosses and I was able to take some good swings at those serves," said Bannan, who shared a post-match congratulatory hug with CdM High Coach Steve Conti. "It sure is a good way to start off the [conference season] We've had some upsets in the past, but I hope this wasn't an upset."

The volleyball nation, as well as Speraw, would disagree.

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