GCU Knocks Off UC San Diego For Program's Biggest Win

Grand Canyon tied the program's longest winning streak at four and picked up its first-ever win over a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponent with a 3-0 triumph over UC San Diego at GCU Arena Sunday.

The 'Lopes downed the Tritons, who beat No. 11 Hawai'i last week, by set scores of 25-21, 25-21, 25-19.

GCU (4-2) was led offensively by sophomore outside hitter Ben Ponnet, who had 15 kills and a .367 attack average.

Grand Canyon was 0-9 all-time against the MPSF coming into the match, including a 2009 loss to UCSD. It had two losses to UCLA, four to Pacific and one each to USC and Pepperdine. Currently, the MPSF has 11 schools, including the first six, ranked in the nation’s Top 15.

“This really signals the growth of the program in a positive direction,” said Grand Canyon coach Jeremy Price. “With the program in its fourth year, I felt optimistic the direction we’re going in. For us to beat an MPSF team, it’s a big step, especially to do it at home and in the new arena.”

Ponnet wasn’t the only offense; GCU hit .304 as a team with a set-best .333 in the third. Sophomore middle hitter Christopher Lockwood hit .533 with nine kills in 15 tries with only one error. He was 4-of-8 in the third. Ponnet had five in the third on 10 tries with only one error.

“We did a lot of things right,” said Price. “We hit over .300. Our sideout was over 80 percent (89 percent in the third set and 86 percent in the first). That’s efficient offense.”

GCU hit .303 in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. Ponnet had six kills, while Lockwood had four on six tries. Through two sets, Ponnet had 10 kills and a .350 hitting percentage. Lockwood had five with a .571. There were eight ties and three lead changes in the second set.

Grand Canyon led from the get-go in the first. Ponnet, on only five swings, and Jordon Tarantino each had four kills. The ’Lopes took advantage of an 86 percent sideout percentage (19-of-22), eight UCSD service errors, seven attack errors.

“That’s a good team,” Price said of the Tritons. “They went to Hawai’i and surprised a lot of people and earned a split. That’s not easy. Maybe we caught them a little off, but we took advantage of the opportunities given to us.”

The four-match winning streak ties the program’s longest. GCU won four in a row in 2010. At 4-2, it is the first time the program has been two games over .500.

Price gave extra credit to his team, not only playing its best match of the season, but doing it in the third match in three days.

“It’s nice to go 3-0 at home and have a four-match winning streak, but at the same time we’ve got to get right back into it Thursday and Friday on the road. There’s no time to coast,” added Price.

Grand Canyon plays at Hope International Thursday and at California Baptist Friday.

Tarantino had double-figure kills with 10 and a team-high five block assists. Setter Keith Smith had 37 assists. Libero Trent Bruns led in digs with 10. Ponnet added eight.

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