LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego hit .600 as a team over the first two sets and went on to defeat the University of Southern California, 3-1, in a non-conference men's volleyball match at RIMAC Arena on Wednesday night. Set scores were 25-20, 25-14, 18-25 and 25-19.
The result snapped a three-match losing streak for UC San Diego and evened its overall record at 9-9. A seventh successive defeat moved USC to 4-14 on the year. It was a second success in a row for the Tritons over the Trojans, both in four sets, after the former Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) rivals' league matchup last season in Los Angeles.
Senior opposite hitter and team tri-captain Tanner Syftestad finished with 18 kills to lead all players, hitting at a .395 clip (18-3-38) and adding four digs, two assists and a block. Fellow senior Milosh Stojcic set his way to 44 assists, with eight digs, two blocks and an ace. Sophomore libero Ryan Lew collected a match-high 13 digs. Freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison had 12 kills (.435) and four digs.
UCSD's senior middle blocker tandem of Alec Flowers and Bryan Zhu had an efficient night. They combined for seven kills on seven attempts in the opening set. Flowers finished at .818 with nine kills and no errors over 11 attacks, and added a match- and season-high seven total blocks. Zhu turned in six kills on .308 hitting (6-2-13).
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Xander Jimenez collected eight kills, a season-high six total blocks, including the Tritons' lone solo stuff of the night, and four digs. Redshirt junior Luke McDonald served a career-best three aces, of UCSD's five, coming off the bench.
UC San Diego hit .342 (54-15-114) for the match after committing a solitary attack error in each of the first two frames, going for remarkable percentages of .591 (14-1-22) and .607 (18-1-28) in trotting out to a 2-0 advantage. USC was left at a .183 clip (40-21-104) for the evening.
The Tritons led 12-8 at the first timeout of the initial frame, breaking a second and final tie at 8-8 with four straight, through kills by Jimenez, Syftestad and Flowers, and a Trojan attack error. Flowers and Jimenez later combined on a thunderous block for 19-15. Coming out of UCSD's first timeout, Flowers' kill made it 21-18. That's when McDonald entered for the first time and immediately served up ace No. 1.
UC San Diego was up 4-1 early and again broke a second and final 7-7 tie with three straight points, the last two through a nice cross-court stuff block by Flowers and Stojcic, and another combo block by Flowers and Jimenez. The stretch grew to five of six, seven of nine, and 10 of 13 points, as the home side built a 17-10 bulge. The final three of those points, around USC's first timeout, all came via Syftestad kills, the middle one on a perfectly-weighted effort off an overpass that found the back right corner. Flowers had back-to-back kills for 13-9 and 14-9. Jimenez's solo denial of senior setter Gert Lisha made it 21-12 as UC San Diego cruised.
The third game subsequently was all USC, as the Tritons suddenly hit just .061 with seven attack errors. One Triton highlight was a deft pancake dig by Syftestad that led to a Harrison kill for a 19-13 deficit. Flowers, Jimenez and Stojcic later teamed up for the night's first triple block.
A second Triton triple stuff, this one by Flowers, Jimenez and Syftestad, again on Jack Wyett, leveled matters at 11-11 in the fourth set. It was 16-14 Tritons at the first timeout. A lengthy delay occurred at 17-15 as Stojcic had to exit through injury, with the point first being awarded to USC, then the sequence being changed to a replay, and the point ultimately going back to the Trojans for a 17-16 edge. Connor Walbrecht took over for his senior teammate, and provided the final spark needed.
The sophomore started off with a kill, and then after McDonald reappeared, combined with Flowers to turn back Lucas Lossone for a 19-16 advantage. McDonald promptly served his third ace, and just like that it was 20-16 and USC had to call for time.
The sides traded points, before Walbrecht floated a perfect ace into no man's land on the opposite end, with the Trojans only staring at it. The teams traded points twice more, with two Triton service errors around kills by Jimenez and Harrison, ahead of a stuff block by Harrison and Zhu on Jon Rivera on match point.
UC San Diego heads up to the Bay Area this Friday, March 9, and rounds out its non-conference schedule at Stanford. First serve inside Burnham Pavilion is set for 7 p.m. Attendance is free.
Triton Notes: Tanner Syftestad's 18 kills give him 1151 for his career, fifth in program history ... Syftestad's 38 attacks give him 2797 for his career, also fifth all-time ... Tonight marked Syftestad's 54th career match in double-figure kills, including 17 of 18 in 2018 ... Milosh Stojcic's 44 assists give him 2426 for his four-year career, moving up from fifth all-time to fourth, ahead of Kurt Seckington's (1996-99) 2408 ... Of UCSD's 10 all-time wins over USC, five now have come at home, with five in Los Angeles ... The Tritons out-blocked the Trojans tonight, 10.0-5.5, after doing so last year in Los Angeles, 14.5-8.0, as well as in their season sweep in 2013, 10.5-10.0 in La Jolla and then 20.0-13.0 in Los Angeles ... UCSD has its most wins since finishing the 2012 campaign at 9-19 overall ... Xander Jimenez's previous high in blocks was seven, which also came against USC, last year in Los Angeles ... The Tritons' hitting percentages of .591 and .607 in tonight's first two games, were their two highest single-set rates of the 2018 season.
M🏐: Wyatt Harrison and Bryan Zhu with the ROOF and #UCSanDiego beats USC 25-19 in Set 4 and 3-1 in sets! #vbscores #GoTritons #BWCMVB #PlayBig #NCAAMVB @BigWestMVB @offtheblock11 pic.twitter.com/7q2VvX9E7A— UCSD Athletics (@UCSDtritons) March 8, 2018