Tritons Swept by No. 9 CSUN on Senior Night; New Season as UC San Diego Awaits Big West Tourney Opener Thursday
LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team suffered a straight-set defeat at the hands of ninth-ranked Big West Conference foe CSUN on Senior Night Saturday inside RIMAC Arena. Set scores were 25-21, 25-18 and 25-21.
The loss in the regular-season finale for both teams saw UC San Diego drop to 9-18 overall and 0-10 in the Big West. CSUN moved to 15-10 overall and an even 5-5 in league play. The Matadors had taken a 3-1 decision over the Tritons in Northridge on Friday night.
With the 3-2 upset by No. 6 Hawai'i over top-ranked and previously-undefeated Long Beach State late Saturday night, the matchups for the inaugural Big West Conference Tournament are now set. Sixth-seeded UC San Diego will face third-seeded and third-ranked UC Irvine in the first quarterfinal inside the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 19. Fourth-seeded CSUN will then follow against 12th-ranked and fifth-seeded UC Santa Barbara at 7:30 p.m. Host Long Beach State and second-seeded UH have earned the two byes directly into Friday night's semifinals.
Seven outstanding Triton senior student-athletes were honored prior to the first serve of their final home appearance, in Luke McDonald, Drew Sloane, Milosh Stojcic, Bryan Zhu (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS), and tri-captains Alec Flowers, Luke La Mont and Tanner Syftestad. All are fourth-year Tritons, with Zhu in his fifth season in the program. All seven will earn their UC San Diego undergraduate degrees in June.
Syftestad finished with team highs of 11 kills and five digs. Stojcic had 16 assists, the Tritons' lone solo block, and one kill on one try. Flowers and La Mont provided four kills apiece. A fifth senior starter, Zhu, collected one block and one dig. McDonald came off the bench for two kills and one dig, as did Sloane for a kill and a block.
After surrendering the first point of the night, UC San Diego scored the next two on a Syftestad kill and a Matador attack error. The visitors reeled off the next five, however, to force the contest's first timeout. Another 4-0 run shortly thereafter made it 11-4, and CSUN took it from there. A triple block by senior middle Josiah Byers, junior setter Sam Porter and Maciej Ptaszynski punctuated the frame.
The Tritons never led in a game two that saw four tie scores early at 1-1, 3-3, 5-5 and 6-6. CSUN was up comfortably at 15-8 after the midway mark through a kill by star senior opposite Arvis Greene, Jr. Greene and Syftestad entered the contest 1-2 in the nation in kills per set. The Los Angeles native finished with 11 to maintain his edge.
There was one highlight-reel point late in that second stanza for the hosts, to make it 22-17. McDonald dug a tough ball that bounded toward the stands, with freshman libero Thomas DeStefano ranging over and keeping it in play, for McDonald in turn to bump it over his head from the end line. Sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht's dump from DeStefano's set ultimately gave the Tritons the exciting point.
UC San Diego notched the first two points in the third, courtesy of a Walbrecht ace and Matador error. The game was tied three times, at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4, before CSUN took command by procuring seven of eight points around a Triton timeout for a 10-5 lead. Walbrecht handled the overpass for his second kill to stop the bleeding momentarily. He then had a nice back-set for Syftestad to put down for a kill, at 10-7.
Following another 4-0 mini-run that made it 17-10 after UCSD's last timeout, junior outside hitter Nathan Thalken's ace got the Tritons within five again at 17-12. Flowers and Thalken later combined to emphatically turn away Greene for 22-19. Thalken had kills on the first two match points, but on the third, the Matadors finally closed out the sweep on Greene's 11th kill.
CSUN's Dimitar Kalchev led all players with his 15 kills. Libero Emmett Enriques had a match-high 10 digs.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego completed the 2018 home schedule at 5-8 ... Tanner Syftestad's 11 kills give him 1202 for his career, fifth in program history ... Syftestad's 24 attacks give him 2936 for his career, third all-time ... Tonight's match was Syftestad's 58th in double-figure kills ... Milosh Stojcic's 16 assists give him exactly 2500 for his four-year career, fourth all-time ... Drew Sloane returned to the court after missing the previous three due to injury.