With Final Exams Behind Them, Tritons Head to Honolulu for Two More Tough Tests at No. 7 Hawai'i
TRITONS OFF TO HAWAII FOR A PAIR
After a 13-day hiatus from competition due to winter quarter final exams, the University of California San Diego men's volleyball program resumes Big West Conference play this weekend at No. 7 Hawai'i (13-6, 1-3 Big West). The Tritons (9-12, 0-4 Big West) fly to Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday, March 29, and will contest their two-match series with the Rainbow Warriors on Friday night, March 30, and Saturday, March 31. First serve for both matches inside the Stan Sheriff Center is set for 10 p.m. PT (7 p.m. HT). UC San Diego is 4-6 outside of La Jolla in 2018. The Tritons are continuing a tough stretch to end the regular season, of eight consecutive Big West tilts against four teams ranked in the top eight nationally. They've got undefeated unanimous No. 1 Long Beach State (19-0, 4-0 Big West) on tap the following weekend for a home-and-home set.
All 13 UC San Diego home matches in 2018 feature live online video on UCSDtritons.tv. Broadcasts are in high definition, generally with multiple cameras, and can be viewed from smartphones and tablets alongside desktop and laptop computers. Local media personality Miles Himmel (@mileshimmel) is the primary play-by-play voice. Back again as the primary analyst is 1988 Olympic gold medalist, UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame setter, beach legend and current UC San Diego women's volleyball head coach Ricci Luyties. Events are archived. This season, viewing will be free, with no login required, and can also be accessed via BigWest.TV. All contests, home and away, have live stats. A majority of road dates also have video, including both this week in Honolulu on BigWest.TV, with separate audio broadcasts also available. Both matches can be seen on television locally in Hawaii through Spectrum Sports, and heard on ESPN 1420AM. Fans can access live coverage from the Schedule/Results page, or by clicking on the links above. Follow @UCSDtritons for in-match Twitter updates throughout the season.
General admission tickets for home volleyball matches are $8 for adults and $5 for visiting students, seniors (65 and older), children (7 and older) and UCSD Alumni Association members. UC San Diego students and kids under seven years of age are admitted free. Tickets are available at the RIMAC Arena box office on the night of the match, starting one hour prior to first serve. Parking permits are required on the UC San Diego campus on weeknights. The closest lot to RIMAC is the adjacent Hopkins Parking Structure. Permits can be purchased there at machines by the elevator. Parking is free for Saturday contests.
The UC San Diego men's volleyball program joined the Big West Conference as an associate member when the league announced on May 31, 2016, that it was adding men's volleyball as its 18th sponsored sport, for the 2018 season. On Nov. 27, 2017, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a full member of the NCAA Division I Big West. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020. They will play complete Big West schedules that season in other sports like baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, etc., and will continue to be eligible for National Collegiate championships in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.
#BWCMVB AT A GLANCE
UC San Diego Men's Volleyball began a brand-new era this January with the start of the inaugural year of the Big West Conference. UCSD is an associate member after 25 seasons in the MPSF, joined by full Big West members CSUN, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, all of whom have also moved over from the MPSF, to give the Big West the minimum six teams necessary to maintain an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. All six squads will make the Big West Tournament, to be held this first season at LBSU's Walter Pyramid, April 19-21. That means that UC San Diego is assured its first postseason match since winning the Molten Division III invitational national championship in 2000. The top two seeds will earn a bye into the semifinals on April 20. The winner of the Big West Tournament on April 21, will be one of the seven teams participating in the 2018 National Collegiate Championship. All five matches of the inaugural Big West Tournament will air live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
UC San Diego was one of four teams receiving votes outside of the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll on Dec. 7, and remained as such in each of the first five in-season releases before dropping out on Feb. 12 following two losses the previous week. It was the first time since 2014 that the Tritons gained mention in the AVCA's preseason edition. UC San Diego is ranked No. 4 in the second-year Off the Block (OTB)/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll. In the first-year VolleyMob Men's Power Rankings, UCSD was the preseason No. 20, and moved up as high as No. 16 on Jan. 22. They were No. 24 in OTB's preseason power poll.
UC SAN DIEGO IN THE AVCA POLL
• March 26: NR
• March 19: NR
• March 12: NR
• March 5: NR
• Feb. 26: RV
• Feb. 19: NR
• Feb. 12: NR
• Feb. 5: RV
• Jan. 29: RV
• Jan. 22: RV
• Jan. 15: RV
• Jan. 8: RV
• Dec. 7 (Preseason): RV
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego dropped both ends of its home-and-home matchup with then-fifth-ranked UC Irvine. The Tritons were swept in Irvine on Thursday, March 15, before having their upset bid narrowly turned away in a five-set thriller in La Jolla the following night. UCSD won the first set, 26-24, and then forced a decisive fifth after trailing two sets to one. The Tritons held leads of 9-6 and 12-11 past the midway point of that fifth, but UCI ultimately came out on top. Freshman Wyatt Harrison turned in career highs of a match-best 19 kills and nine digs, just missing his first collegiate double-double. Sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht did produce his first, with career bests of 50 assists and 13 digs.
UC San Diego starting freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison was born in Kaua'i, Hawaii, and lists Kilauea as his hometown. He attended Kapa'a High School, where his father was the vice principal, on Kaua'i for two years and played volleyball there. His family then relocated to Santa Cruz, where he went to Pacific Collegiate School for the past two years. Harrison's father, Todd, was a two-year letter winner in the UH volleyball program in 1987 and 1988, before going on to play semiprofessionally in Switzerland.
SYFTESTAD CONTINUES TO LEAD NATION OFFENSIVELY
With three weeks left of the 2018 regular season, Tanner Syftestad still leads all of NCAA Division I-II offensively in kills (4.76), points (5.58) and attacks (10.37) per set. He is 25th in hitting percentage (.326), 38th in aces per set (0.366) and 49th in blocks per set (0.845). Syftestad has accounted for the fourth-biggest (tied) kill output of the 2018 season nationally, three times in fact, with his 27 from the five-set season-opening win over McKendree, four-set victory over Ottawa (AZ), and five-set loss at Concordia. Those performances are tied for second-best in the Big West. He ranks first with his career-high 66 attacks at McKendree (2/16), with four other 50-plus efforts.
HARRISON IS UC SAN DIEGO'S FIRST BIG WEST FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Wyatt Harrison, an outside hitter out of Kilauea, Hawaii, earned the distinction on March 12 of becoming UC San Diego's first-ever student-athlete to be named Big West Conference Freshman of the Week. Harrison put down 12 kills on .435 hitting (12-2-23) in a 3-1 home win over USC on March 7, and 10 more at a .533 clip (10-2-15), with three service aces, in a four-set loss at Stanford two nights later. He started out 9-0-9 offensively in that match over the first three frames. Harrison has posted eight matches in double-figure kills as a rookie, including four in his last five.
UC San Diego was 7-3 after 10 matches for the first time in program history, beginning with the 1989 campaign. The Tritons opened up a perfect 3-0 for the first time since 1996. The Tritons were .500 or better through 10 contests four other times, in 1996 (6-4) when they started 6-0 before dropping the next eight, as well as in 2017 (5-5), 2004 (5-5) and 1989 (5-5). The six teams of the brand-new Big West Conference have combined to go 79-37 (.681), taking up four of the top eight spots in the latest AVCA poll, led by undefeated unanimous No. 1 Long Beach State (19-0). The Tritons' nine wins are their most since the 2012 campaign.
SYFTESTAD MOVING THROUGH UCSD RANKS
Late in the fourth set of the Feb. 3 home loss to Stanford, Tanner Syftestad became just the sixth player in program history to reach 1000 kills. Having put down the kill that gave fellow fourth-year senior Milosh Stojcic his 2000th assist just eight days prior, Syftestad converted on the Stojcic assist for his 16h of 17 kills on the night, and No. 1000 as a Triton, for a 19-16 lead in that fourth frame. Sitting fifth now with 1161, Syftestad is fourth in attacks (2829), and third in service aces (84).
STOJCIC SETTING HIMSELF UP CAREER CHART
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic is No. 4 all-time at UC San Diego with 2426 career assists. Assist number 2000 came on Jan. 26 at Grand Canyon, as Tanner Syftestad's kill to pull the Tritons within one at 10-9 in the opening set gave Stojcic his necessary sixth assist of the contest. He thus became only the sixth Triton to achieve 2000 assists. The Redondo Beach native surpassed the 1000 mark at UCLA on Jan. 14, 2017. Stojcic was the lone Triton to start all 27 matches a year ago, and was the only one to start the first 18 contests in 2018 before having to sit out the past three matches due to an injury suffered late against USC on March 7.
OTHER NATIONAL STATISTICAL LEADERS
Milosh Stojcic is 10th in assists per set (10.09). Fellow seniors Alec Flowers and Bryan Zhu are 20th (1.016) and 47th (0.853), respectively, in blocks per set. UC San Diego as a team is seventh in digs per set (10.05), leading the Big West. The Tritons are fifth in assists (11.95) and attacks (29.16) per set, and eighth in kills per set (12.59). For single matches, Drew Sloane's career-high 10 total blocks (1/27 vs. OUAZ) is tied for seventh nationally, with Alec Flowers' .900 (9-0-10) attack percentage (1/19 vs. UCSC) tied for third.
STELLAR WEEKLY AWARDS HAUL FOR SYFTESTAD
On Jan. 8, senior captain Tanner Syftestad was named the first-ever Big West Conference Men's Volleyball Player of the Week following an incredible weekend during the first-year league's opening. He totaled 49 kills, or a conference-best average of 5.44 per set, while hitting an efficient .361 as an opposite. Syftestad put down match highs of 27 kills in five sets against McKendree on Jan. 5, and 22 more in four against King the next day. On Jan. 9, he became the first Triton to be chosen Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II Men's Player of the Week, since Vaun Lennon on April 3, 2012, and just the fourth in program history. Syftestad also picked up VolleyMob Player of the Week honorable mention. He later on Jan. 23 became the first Triton named VolleyMob Player of the Week.
18-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 27 on 1/5 vs. MU, 1/27 vs. OUAZ and 2/9 at CUI)
8-Wyatt Harrison (Best of 19 on 3/16 vs. UCI)
3-Xander Jimenez (Best of 14 on 3/16 vs. UCI)
1-Alec Flowers (12 on 3/16 vs. UCI)
1-Luke La Mont (10 on 1/20 vs. CUI)
1-Nathan Thalken (10 on 3/16 vs. UCI)
6-Ryan Lew (Best of 16 on 3/16 vs. UCI)
4-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 15 on 2/23 at UCSB)
3-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 13 on 2/9 at CUI)
2-Nathan Thalken (Best of 11 on 1/5 vs. MU)
1-Thomas DeStefano (10 on 2/9 at CUI)
1-Xander Jimenez (13 on 2/16 at MU)
1-Connor Walbrecht (13 on 3/16 vs. UCI)
1-Drew Sloane (10 on 1/27 vs. OUAZ)
55-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU; 15 with 20-plus and one with 30-plus)
8-Wyatt Harrison (Best of 19 on 3/16/18 vs. UCI)
7-Alec Flowers (Best of 15 on 3/6/15 vs. CBU)
4-Xander Jimenez (Best of 14 on 3/16/18 vs. UCI)
2-Luke La Mont (Best of 12 on 1/30/15 at BYU)
2-Nathan Thalken (Best of 11 on 4/1/17 at STAN)
2-Bryan Zhu (Best of 11 on 3/2/16 vs. PEP)
11-Ryan Lew (Best of 20 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
6-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 13 on 2/9/18 at CUI)
5-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 15 on 2/23/18 at UCSB)
2-Xander Jimenez (Best of 13 on 2/16/18 at MU)
2-Nathan Thalken (Best of 11 on 1/5/18 vs. MU)
1-Thomas DeStefano (10 on 2/9/18 at CUI)
1-Connor Walbrecht (13 on 3/16/18 vs. UCI)
Four current Tritons have combined for 13 career double-doubles, with nine this season:
Milosh Stojcic (6)
2/9/18 at Concordia (51 assists, 13 digs)
2/8/18 vs. BYU (39 assists, 11 digs)
1/26/18 at Grand Canyon (37 assists, 10 digs)
3/17/17 vs. Concordia (52 assists, 10 digs)
3/11/17 vs. Ball State (16 assists, 11 digs)
1/23/16 at Holy Names (31 assists, 10 digs)
Tanner Syftestad (5)
2/23/18 at UC Santa Barbara (20 kills, 15 digs)
2/9/18 at Concordia (27 kills, 11 digs)
1/27/18 vs. Ottawa (AZ) (27 kills, 12 digs)
1/20/18 vs. Concordia (24 kills, 11 digs)
1/7/15 at Concordia (12 kills, 10 digs)
Xander Jimenez (1)
2/16/18 at McKendree (11 kills, 13 digs)
Connor Walbrecht (1)
3/16/18 vs. UC Irvine (50 assists, 13 digs)
KEVIN RING SEASON OUTLOOK QUOTES
(On the season) "We return a number of key players from last year's squad, so we are looking to build upon our performance from last season. We've got a motivated group of student-athletes, with a strong senior class, looking to make this our best season ever. I think we have the chance to do that. I look at the season in three segments: 1) non-conference match schedule, 2) Big West Conference regular-season schedule and 3) Big West Conference Tournament. Our goal is to grow as a team so that we gain valuable experience as we head into each new segment of the season, with the ultimate goal to be playing our best volleyball in the Big West Tournament."
(On joining the Big West for men's volleyball) "I am extremely excited about the inaugural Big West men's volleyball season. We've got a group of coaches within the Big West, along with the conference office, committed to being the top men's volleyball conference in the country. Every match we play leading up to our Big West schedule will be important for the strength of the conference, but the real excitement begins when we open up conference play. UCSD Men's Volleyball, players and coaches alike, are thrilled to be the first program at UCSD to compete within the Big West Conference and represent our school."
Back for UC San Diego head coach Kevin Ring in 2018 are his starting setter, Milosh Stojcic, primary libero, Ryan Lew, and senior opposite hitter Tanner Syftestad, who earned Off the Block's very first Division II National Player of the Year award, as well as VolleyballMag.com All-America honorable mention and All-MPSF Second Team selection. The now-third-year team captain had a tremendous junior campaign with team bests of 366 kills (4.21 per set), 28 aces and 62 total blocks, to go along with 102 digs. Stojcic was the only Triton to start all 27 matches and produced 9.08 assists per set and 107 digs. As a true freshman, Lew paced the squad with 154 digs, averaging two per set. Coming off a 2017 season in which it posted a five-match win streak that included triumphs at USC and at home against Princeton and CSUN, UC San Diego's 2018 schedule features 13 of 27 matches in La Jolla. The Tritons opened the campaign at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament, and also traveled to Phoenix, Ariz., and St. Louis, Mo. Their 10-match Big West slate began at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 23.
SCINTILLATING SEASON FOR SYFTESTAD
Tanner Syftestad was outstanding a season ago. The opposite hitter out of Sacramento led the Tritons in kills (366), aces (28) and total blocks (62). Syftestad averaged a remarkable 4.21 kills per set, which ranked fifth in the nation. He was also third in points (4.92) and attacks (9.33) per set. Syftestad had a team-best 17 matches with double-figure kills, including a career-high 31 at home against Hope International on Jan. 28 in the middle of an incredible five-match stretch of kill totals of 20-plus. He held at least a share of the team lead in kills in 20 of the 25 matches he appeared in.
UC SAN DIEGO CAPTAINS
Team tri-captains for the 2018 season were designated as seniors Alec Flowers, Luke La Mont and Tanner Syftestad. Syftestad is now a three-year captain, while Flowers and La Mont are first-timers.
UNIQUE STORIES IN TRITON LINEUP
• Tanner Syftestad is a fourth-year Triton who transferred after spending 2013-14 as a true freshman playing club volleyball at Chico State, which does not sponsor an intercollegiate men's volleyball program. The Sacramento native appeared in 80 of 83 matches his first three seasons, starting 76 of them at opposite and producing double-figure kill totals in 37. Syftestad led UC San Diego in kills (241), aces (15) and total blocks (75) in 2015, and was second in all three categories (216-15-44) in 2016. He returned to the top rung in all three (366-28-62) in 2017.
• Alec Flowers was serving as a team manager to begin his freshman year in 2015 while slated to redshirt, before joining the active roster, making his college debut on Feb. 13, and ultimately starting nine of the final 10 matches at outside hitter. He had team bests of 15 kills and seven digs in his first start on March 6, 2015, and is now a senior captain.
UC San Diego's schedule has 13 of 27 matches at home for the second straight year ... The Tritons are 3-4 in three-set matches, 5-5 in four-set matches and 1-3 in five-setters in 2018 ... Wyatt Harrison has earned four Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week honorable menions (1/22, 2/5, 3/12 and 3/19) ... UC San Diego is 5-8 in openers under Kevin Ring following the five-set triumph over McKendree (IL) at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament on Jan. 5, which marked the Tritons' first season-opening success away from home since 2013 ... UC San Diego was picked sixth in the first Big West preseason coaches' poll, with 2017 MPSF champion and national semifinalist Long Beach State the favorite ... For the second year in a row, Tanner Syftestad was one of 15 standouts around the country named to the preseason watch list for the fourth annual Bryan Ivie Award, presented by Off the Block to the best opposite in NCAA Division I-II ... UC San Diego led the MPSF for a second straight year with a program-record nine MPSF All-Academic distinctions in 2017 (seven in 2016), including returners Alec Flowers, Xander Jimenez, Luke McDonald, Milosh Stojcic, Nathan Thalken and Bryan Zhu, with Zhu now a three-time honoree, and Flowers, McDonald and Stojcic repeat selections.
Of the 23 players on UC San Diego's 2018 roster, 20 hail from California, with the lone exceptions being true freshmen Gabe Avillion (State College, PA), Wyatt Harrison (Kilauea, HI) and Macune Gilruth (Nairobi, Kenya) ... UCSD has 13 returners, 11 of whom saw action a season ago with two redshirt freshmen, and 10 newcomers, all true freshmen ... Of those 10 true freshmen, three made their college debuts in the opening weekend in Bryce Curtis, Thomas DeStefano and Wyatt Harrison, with Collin Shannon added to the mix in the Jan. 11 home opener, alongside redshirt freshman Vlad Pesic with the start at a middle blocker spot ... The lone San Diego product is fifth-year senior middle blocker Bryan Zhu (Rancho Bernardo HS).
HEAD COACH KEVIN RING
Kevin Ring is in his 13th season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Coach of the Year, he has a 93-268 overall record at the helm. Before being elevated to the head position on June 15, 2005, Ring spent nine years as an assistant for the UCSD men's squad. He got his start in La Jolla as the men's volleyball team manager from 1989-91 before playing for the Tritons for three seasons. Ring was the full-time manager for the U.S. men's national team from 1991-93 and continued on as a technical advisor through 1996. He accompanied Team USA to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The 1992 squad left Spain with a bronze medal. To this day, Ring maintains strong ties to USA Volleyball, and aided women's national team head coach Karch Kiraly and his staff in preparing Team USA for the 2016 Rio Olympics. That involvement included serving as an on-court assistant to Kiraly for three matches in Bangkok, Thailand, on the final stop of the FIVB World Grand Prix preliminary rounds in August of 2014. In the December 2015 issue of Volleyball Magazine, Ring appeared at No. 10 in a listing of the top head coaches in college men's volleyball, as voted by his peers.
ABOUT THE RAINBOW WARRIORS
No. 7 Hawai'i (13-6, 1-3 Big West) won its first seven matches of the 2018 season, but heads into Friday night a loser of four straight, including all three during its first California foray, March 15-18. That trip consisted of back-to-back three-set Big West sweeps at then-10th-ranked CSUN, followed by a 3-1 defeat to then-seventh-ranked Pepperdine in Malibu. The Rainbow Warriors are 10-3 inside their own Stan Sheriff Center in 2018. UH leads the nation as a team at 13.64 kills and 12.70 assists per set, with junior setter Joe Worsley pacing the Big West at 11.02 assists per set. Junior Stijn van Tilburg averages a team-best 4.35 kills per set. Charlie Wade is in his ninth season in charge of the Rainbow Warriors.
UH leads the all-time series, 52-4, and won last year's lone meeting in straight sets in La Jolla on Feb. 10, after taking both matchups in each of the previous four seasons. The Rainbow Warriors took all four matches in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2014 and 2016 in straight sets. In La Jolla in 2015, scores were 3-0 and 3-1, and in 2013, 3-1 and 3-2. The sides had split the previous eight meetings between 2009-12. After UH won the first 39 matchups, the Tritons swept the 2009 series in La Jolla on March 13-14, 3-1 and 3-2. The teams split at RIMAC Arena in 2011, with UCSD winning in five sets on Jan. 28 and UH taking a 3-1 decision the following night. In 2012, the Tritons triumphed for the first and only time in Honolulu, 3-0 on Jan. 6, after the Rainbow Warriors had defeated them in straight sets the day before in the season opener for both squads.
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After returning from Hawaii, UC San Diego will await its home-and-home showdown with top-ranked and undefeated Long Beach State. The Beach will first pay RIMAC Arena a visit on Friday, April 6, with the rematch the next night in Long Beach at the Walter Pyramid, site of the inaugural Big West Tournament next month. Both matches will begin at 7 p.m.