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Athletics Roundup: Football Falls in FCS Playoffs; Volleyball Awaits NCAA Tourney; M&W Basketball

Emilio Martinez runs with the ball after one of his six receptions against Northern Iowa in an FCS first-round playoff game.Emilio Martinez runs with the ball after one of his six receptions against Northern Iowa Saturday. USD football lost 17-3 in an FCS playoff game.

The University of San Diego football team was within a touchdown with less than three minutes remaining, but Northern Iowa’s defense held the Toreros to a season-low 213 yards of offense, resulting in a 17-3 loss at the UNI Dome in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday.

The Toreros (9-3), who wrapped up their sixth consecutive nine-win season, were forced into a season-high four turnovers and only made two trips to the red zone in a loss that ended a nine-game win streak.

USD’s defense stood tall, though, against one of the top-ranked FCS teams, holding the Panthers (9-4) to 268 yards and only one offensive touchdown. The Toreros forced UNI into eight punts and four three-and-outs to keep the game within reach.

Marcus Vaivao led the Toreros with 11 solo tackles (14 total) and 2.5 tackles for loss. The redshirt senior also forced two fumbles, one of which resulted in a turnover that set up USD’s only scoring drive, a 33-yard field goal by Brandon Eickert.

Vaivao was part of a USD front-seven that limited UNI to 2.4 yards per rush (82 total yards) and totaled seven tackles for loss. It also played a role in forcing Panthers quarterback Will McElvain to a less-than-50% completion percentage (13-of-27).

UNI, which entered the game 10th in the country in turnovers gained, picked off USD quarterback Reid Sinnett three times and forced a late fourth-quarter fumble. The first interception was a pick-six by Brawntae Wells on the third play from scrimmage that gave the Panthers an early 7-0 lead. The last interception came late in the fourth and set up a one-play touchdown drive that made it 17-3 with 2:54 remaining.

Sinnett, a Johnston, Iowa native playing two hours from his hometown, finished 22-of-36 with 187 yards. Emilio Martinez and Dalton Kincaid each had six catches to lead the Torero receiving corps. Martinez totaled 71 receiving yards, including 36 on a screen play in the second quarter that helped set up the lone USD score, while Kincaid had 63.

The Toreros had an opportunity for their first points early in the second when they used a 33-yard drive to put them at the Panthers’ 35-yard line for a 52-yard field goal attempt by Tanner Kuljian. The attempt missed short and wide right and gave the Panthers the ball with 5:48 remaining.

The UNI offense used the missed field goal as an opportunity to swing momentum as it followed an 11-yard pass to open the drive with a 52-yard completion between McElvain and Isaiah Weston to put the ball inside the red zone for the first time.

However, after a two-yard rush by Trevor Allen, Vaivao forced a McElvain fumble that was recovered by Jacob Bergstrom to quickly give possession back to USD with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter. The Toreros marched 73 yards on 13 plays to set up Eickert’s successful kick.

USD’s defense finished the first half by forcing four punts and a fumble on UNI’s six drives while holding it to no offensive touchdowns.

In the second half, neither defense relented as the two offenses combined for five punts and one missed field goal attempt until a 13-play, 68-yard drive by the Panthers turned into a field goal that made it 10-3 with 8:25 left.  

Volleyball

The nationally 20th-ranked USD women’s volleyball team earned its first outright West Coast Conference championship since 2013 on Nov. 26, closing out its regular-season schedule with a four-set WCC victory over Loyola Marymount in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. After dropping the first set, the Toreros (24-5, 17-1 WCC) took the next three sets to top the Lions, 21-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-20.

Four Toreros reached double-digit kills and USD hit .296 as a team against the Lions. San Diego was led by Katie Lukes and Grace Frohling who each collected 12 kills. Lauren Turner and Thana Fayad added 10 kills apiece, while Megan Jacobsen chipped in nine.

Fayad registered her ninth double-double of the season, finishing second on the team with 15 digs. Annie Benbow led the Toreros in the back court, tallying 17 digs, while Anna Newsome and Camryn Tastad added nine each.

Newsome collected 47 assists and added five kills on seven errorless swings to hit .714. Newsome was also one of six Toreros to register an ace in the match. USD was led by Frohling and Fayad who collected two aces each. USD collected nine blocks, led by Turner’s six total blocks, including three solo stops. Fayad and Jacobsen had three blocks each.

Volleyball Schedule: USD, which owns the Big West Conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, will find out its postseason destination and opponents when the bracket is revealed on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Men’s Basketball

The Boca Raton (Fla.) Beach Classic opened for the USD men’s basketball team in a familiar place — Jenny Craig Pavilion — on Nov. 27.

A 79-69 Toreros win over Hofstra in the tournament’s opening game advanced San Diego to Sunday’s 6 p.m. Pacific time game against Saint Bonaventure in the FAU Arena in Florida. The winner of Sunday’s game faces the UIC-Florida Atlantic winner at 5 p.m. Monday. The third-place game (losers of both Sunday games) meet at 2 p.m. Monday.

Against Hofstra, Braun Hartfield scored a career-high 25 points and Joey Calcaterra registered 21 for the third time this season to lead San Diego to a win and improved its season record to 3-5. Hofstra fell to 4-3.

The Toreros outscored the Pride in the second half by 14 points, keyed by Hartfield and Calcaterra scoring 17 and 12, respectively. Hartfield played 19 of the last 20 minutes, shooting 58.3% from the field. Calcaterra had a pair of three-pointers and sank two late free throws in the second half to help convincingly seal the game.

Hartfield also hauled in a season-high 12 rebounds for his first double-double as a Torero. He added three assists, three steals and two blocks while going 10-of-18 from the field. Calcaterra led the team with five assists and shot 42.8% from three-point range (3-of-7).

Men’s Basketball Schedule: USD at Boca Raton Beach Classic — USD vs. St. Bonaventure, Sunday, 6 p.m.; USD vs. UIC or Florida Atlantic, Monday, 2 p.m. or 5 p.m.; USD hosts Holy Cross, Sat. Dec. 7, 7 p.m., Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Women’s Basketball

A late fourth-quarter surge by the USD women’s basketball team came up just short as undefeated Texas Tech claimed the San Diego Thanksgiving Tournament title with a 64-60 victory over the Toreros on Saturday afternoon in the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Down 63-56 with 2:49 left in the game, layup baskets by Leticia Soares and Madison Pollock made it 63-60 with 51 seconds remaining and got the Toreros as close as they’d get before a free throw in the final seconds gave Texas Tech (5-0) the four-point lead.

Pollock led the Toreros with a double-double, 17 points and 10 rebounds. Myah Pace had an all-around strong performance with nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. Jordyn Edwards and Soares had seven and eight points, respectively.

The Toreros (4-2) earned the title game spot following Friday’s 57-49 victory over Monmouth. Against Monmouth, the Toreros fought back from a 32-29 halftime deficit to win.

Three players reached double figures for San Diego, led by Patricia Brossmann, who had 11 points. Sydney Hunter had 10 points and two steals, and Pollock had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

San Diego rallied in the third quarter and constructed a 44-40 lead before going on a 9-0 run, punctuated by a basket from Hunter, to expand its lead further to 53-40 with 90 seconds left in the quarter. Hunter came up big on defense with a block off a fast break drive by Monmouth and Pollock was potent from the field as USD held on for the victory in the fourth quarter.

Women’s Basketball Schedule: USD hosts Idaho, Wednesday, 6 p.m., Jenny Craig Pavilion; USD hosts Cal State Fullerton, Saturday, 2 p.m., JCP.

USD Athletics

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