LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego has been playing men's volleyball for 30 seasons, since 1989.
The Tritons are 7-2 for the first time.
UC San Diego pulled out a dramatic and lengthy third set to complete a 3-0 sweep over Princeton University in non-conference action Wednesday night at RIMAC Arena. Set scores were 25-21, 25-23 and 34-32.
With the result, UCSD has already equaled its win total from a 7-20 2017 campaign.
The Tritons fended off four set points in the third as Princeton tried desperately to extend the contest, but on the sixth match point, UC San Diego finally prevailed as senior captain Tanner Syftestad went back to serve, and the Tigers managed an attack error.
Syftestad finished with 10 kills, two service aces, four digs, three blocks, all of the solo variety, and one assist. The Tritons won, in a sweep, despite just a .138 hitting percentage (10-6-29) from the national leader in kills, points and attacks per set.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Xander Jimenez provided a big spark off the bench in his season debut after recovering from injury. He entered in the second set on the heels of a 6-0 run which gave the visitors a 14-13 edge, and wound up with six kills, including one to close out that second frame, while attacking at a .308 rate (6-2-13) and adding three digs and a key block assist on a huge triple block late in the third.
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic stuffed the box score with 33 assists, a team-high seven digs, four total blocks and a kill.
Freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison followed a Nathan Thalken kill by serving three successive aces in game one. After the first timeout of the night by the Tigers, an attack error made it a 5-0 stretch for the hosts, and a 10-6 advantage. Moments later, however, a 4-0 Princeton run had levelled matters at 11-11. A Triton triple block by Harrison, Stojcic and senior middle blocker Bryan Zhu (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) broke a 15-15 tie. After the teams traded singular miscues, UC San Diego notched four of the next five points, around Princeton's second timeout, and up 21-17, hung on the rest of the way. Harrison led all players with 5.5 points in the frame on his three aces, two kills on five swings without an error, and block assist.
A thunderous solo stuff by Thalken made it a fourth straight point for UCSD in the second, and following a Tiger timeout, an awry attack saw the Tritons ahead, 12-6. Syftestad's tough dig opened the door for a Harrison kill and 18-16 edge. Successive kills by the newly-inserted Jimenez, the first one off the block, overturned a 20-19 deficit and ignited a 5-0 run. The other three points were all Princeton hitting errors, the last two on Syftestad solo denials of Greg Luck. Down 24-20, the Tigers earned the next three points, but it was Jimenez onto the scene again to put UCSD in command.
Princeton's lone triple block came at 4-4 in game three, but preceded four consecutive Tiger hitting mistakes, the last three of which came with Triton blocks, first by Stojcic and Zhu, then Zhu by himself, and finally by Harrison and Zhu. A kill and two aces meant a 3-0 mini-run by 6-foot-11 Tiger middle George Huhmann and forced a UCSD timeout, trailing 18-17. Out of the break came a Jimenez kill and a triple block by Flowers, Jimenez and Stojcic to flip the edge.
After ties of 19-19, 20-20, 21-21, 22-22 and 23-23, Syftestad's ace gave the Tritons their first match point, at 25-24, but Huhmann answered with a kill. Syftestad's roll-shot kill ruined Princeton's third set-point pursuit at 28-28, and his third and final solo stuff broke a 29-29 tie. Knotted incredibly for a 27th time in the set at 32-32, a Syftestad kill and Huhmann attack error sent the Triton faithful home happy.
Harrison and Alec Flowers contributed nine kills apiece to the Triton cause, with Flowers hitting a match-high .538 (9-2-13). Zhu got to a match-best five total blocks.
Princeton, idle since Jan. 12 due to final exams, dropped to 1-5 following the opener of its three-match California trip. The Tigers are at No. 2 UCLA on Thursday night. Huhmann (14) and Luck (10) reached double figures in kills, with Huhmann serving three aces, and Parker Dixon collected a match-high 10 digs.
UC San Diego continues a three-match homestand this Saturday night, Feb. 3, against Stanford (1-7). First serve at RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla is set for 7 p.m. Those unable to attend can view the contest for free, in HD, on UCSDtritons.tv.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 17-6, and has won the last three meetings, all in La Jolla the past three seasons ... The teams have now met in La Jolla in four straight years, and 12 of the last 13, with 2014 the lone exception since the 2006 matchup ... Tanner Syftestad's 10 kills give him 984 for his career, moving him from seventh all-time at UC San Diego to sixth over Zack Hite (976 from 1998-01), as he inches closer toward becoming just the sixth Triton men's volleyball player to reach the 1000-kill milestone ... Syftestad's 29 attacks give him 2425 for his career, also up from seventh to sixth all-time, over Jeff Babcock (1985-89) ... Syftestad's two aces give him 71, up from sixth in the record book, into a three-way tie for fourth ... Syftestad has 45 career matches in double-figure kills, though his string of three straight with 20-plus kills ended tonight ... Syftestad's three solo blocks were a career high, and his first three on the season ... Milosh Stojcic's 33 assists give him 2105 for his four-year career, sixth all-time ... Tonight's third set was UCSD's longest by point since a 36-34 third-set loss to Pacific during a five-set home defeat on April 5, 2013 ... UCSD had not swept Princeton since Jan. 26, 2011.