LEBANON, Ill. - The University of California San Diego came up short in a marathon first game and lost at McKendree University, 3-1, in non-conference men's volleyball action Friday night at the Harry M. Statham Sports Center. Set scores were 34-32, 25-21, 23-25 and 25-22.
With a fourth successive defeat, UC San Diego drops to 7-6 overall. McKendree, of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), improved to 5-6. The only previous meeting between the sides had come in the Tritons' season opener back on Jan. 5, a 3-2 victory at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament. The Bearcats were receiving votes just outside of Tuesday's most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I-II top-15 poll, for the first time in program history.
Both programs are members of the NCAA Division II, with UCSD third in the latest Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II poll and McKendree right behind in fourth.
Despite the result, UC San Diego put up some impressive numbers. Senior captain and opposite hitter Tanner Syftestad, still the national leader in kills, points and attacks per set heading into the weekend, put down 23 more kills on a career-high 66 total attacks, the largest output in the NCAA Division I-II thus far in 2018. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Xander Jimenez finished with his first collegiate double-double, providing 11 kills and 13 digs. Senior setter Milosh Stojcic matched his career high with 56 assists. Freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison contributed a season-best 16 kills, and sophomore libero Ryan Lew was in double-figure digs with 13.
The first set saw 13 tie scores. UC San Diego fended off eight set points in all, and earned one of its own, on a Syftestad kill for 30-29, but a service error evened things up again, and moments later game one had gone the way of the hosts. McKendree tallied the first three points of the second set and led the entire way.
Despite leading 6-2 and 16-11, UC San Diego let the Bearcats catch up in game three, at 22-22, but a Syftestad kill and combination block by Syftestad and fellow senior Bryan Zhu broke a 23-23 tie and extended the match. Zhu wound up with five blocks.
The Bearcats trotted out to 10-5 and 18-13 leads in game four at the Tritons' two timeouts. UC San Diego, much like McKendree the frame before, was actually able to make up the difference, drawing even at 18-18 on the strength of the next five points. At 19-19, the home side grabbed the next two, and managed to hang on.
UC San Diego remains in St. Louis to continue its season-long four-match road stretch at another top Division II foe from the MIVA in Lindenwood, located in St. Charles, Mo. First serve Saturday at Robert F. Hyland Arena is set for 5:30 p.m. PT (7:30 p.m. CT).
Triton Notes: Tanner Syftestad's 23 kills give him 1066 for his career, moving him up from sixth to fifth in program history ahead of Carl Eberts (1044 from 2009-13) ... Syftestad's 66 attacks give him 2618 for his career, also fifth all-time ... Syftestad has 49 career matches in double-figure kills, including 12 of 13 thus far in 2018, and 14 now with 20-plus ... Milosh Stojcic's 56 assists give him 2286 for his four-year career, fifth all-time ... Stojcic now has four career efforts with 50-plus assists ... The opening set equaled UCSD's longest of 2018 in terms of points.