TWO BIG HOME TILTS ON TAP
The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team kicks off a three-match homestand with a pair of non-conference contests this week. At 6-2, UC San Diego has equaled its best-ever start to a season, from 22 years ago in 1996. The Tritons host Princeton (1-4) on Wednesday, Jan. 31, with first serve set for 6 p.m. at RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla. They then welcome in former Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) rival Stanford (1-7) on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. UC San Diego is 3-1 at home, and 1-2 against current MPSF foes.
All 13 UC San Diego home matches in 2018 will 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. 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.
PRESENTATION PAIR ON SATURDAY
During an extended break between the second and third sets of Saturday's meeting with Stanford, the banner will be presented at RIMAC Arena for the 2017 NCAA Division II national runner-up UC San Diego baseball team. Student-athletes who achieved a 4.0 grade-point average for the 2017 fall quarter will also then be recognized.
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 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 a full Big West schedule that season 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.
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 four in-season releases. It was the first time since 2014 that the Tritons gained mention in the AVCA's preseason edition. UC San Diego is ranked No. 2 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 to No. 19 on Jan. 8, No. 18 on Jan. 15, and No. 16 on Jan. 22. The Tritons are No. 17 there this week. They were No. 24 in OTB's preseason power poll.
UC SAN DIEGO IN THE AVCA POLL
• Jan. 29: RV
• Jan. 22: RV
• Jan. 15: RV
• Jan. 8: RV
• Dec. 7 (Preseason): RV
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego split its weekend in Phoenix, Ariz., falling in four sets to No. 11 Grand Canyon on Friday night, before rallying for a 3-1 victory over Ottawa (AZ) on Saturday. Tanner Syftestad had match highs in kills in both matches again, with 21 against GCU and a season-high-tying 27 in the win. He hit a very efficient .473. Milosh Stojcic had a double-double in the Grand Canyon defeat, with 37 assists and 10 digs. His sixth assist, midway through the first set, marked the 2000th of his career. Syftestad added his second double-double of the season versus the Spirit, collecting 12 digs to go along with his 27 kills. Drew Sloane reached double figures in blocks with a career- and match-high 10 as UCSD out-blocked OUAZ, 14.5-7.5.
WHAT A START!
UC San Diego opened up 3-0 for the first time since 1996, and at 6-2, has equaled its best eight-match start to a season since that 1996 campaign, when it began a perfect 6-0. That was 22 years ago, also the uniform number of Tanner Syftestad, who put down 51 kills in the Tritons' first three wins and leads the nation statistically on offense. The six teams of the brand-new Big West Conference have combined to go 39-10 thus far, with three of them ranked among the top four in the latest AVCA poll, including unanimous No. 1 Long Beach State.
STOJCIC ECLIPSES 2000 ASSISTS
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic is No. 6 all-time at UC San Diego with 2072 career assists. Assist number 2000 came last Friday, 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.
SYFTESTAD ON VERGE OF HIS OWN MILESTONE
Tanner Syftestad is imminently looking to become just the sixth player in the history of UC San Diego Men's Volleyball to reach the 1000-kill milestone. He enters the week with 974 kills, his 48 kills in Phoenix having moved him from 10th, up to seventh, in the Triton record book. Syftestad is also seventh in attacks (2396), and sixth in aces (69).
NATIONAL STATISTICAL LEADERS
Tanner Syftestad leads all of NCAA Division I-II in kills (5.39), points (6.32) and attacks (10.82) per set. Milosh Stojcic is 14th in assists per set (9.73). Alec Flowers is ninth in blocks per set (1.19) and No. 2 in the Big West, with Syftestad 21st nationally in blocks per set (1.07), 20th in hitting percentage (.363) and 31st in aces per set (0.39). UC San Diego as a team is No. 5 at 12.93 kills per set, and No. 3 at 12.20 assists per set.
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.
1-Drew Sloane (10 on 1/27 vs. OUAZ)
44-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU; 12 with 20-plus and one with 30-plus)
6-Alec Flowers (Best of 15 on 3/6/15 vs. CBU)
2-Luke La Mont (Best of 12 on 1/30/15 at BYU)
2-Bryan Zhu (Best of 11 on 3/2/16 vs. PEP)
1-Wyatt Harrison (10 on 1/5/18 vs. MU)
1-Xander Jimenez (11 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
1-Nathan Thalken (11 on 4/1/17 at STAN)
6-Ryan Lew (Best of 20 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
4-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 11 on 3/11/17 vs. BSU)
3-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 12 on 1/27/18 vs. OUAZ)
2-Nathan Thalken (Best of 11 on 1/5/18 vs. MU)
1-Xander Jimenez (11 on 3/14/17 vs. CBU)
Two current Tritons have combined for seven career double-doubles, with three this season:
Milosh Stojcic (4)
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 (3)
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)
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. The Tritons fell in straight sets at UC Irvine a year ago after a home sweep over Charleston on Jan. 8, 2016, which had marked UCSD's first win in a season opener since a 3-2 upset of fifth-ranked Lewis in Santa Barbara to begin the 2013 campaign. Prior to Jan. 5, that victory over Lewis was also the Tritons' last season-opening success away from home.
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 travel to Phoenix, Ariz., with a mid-February trip to Lebanon, Ill., and St. Charles, Mo. Their 10-match Big West slate begins Feb. 23 at UC Santa Barbara.
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 2-1 in three-set matches, 3-1 in four-set matches and 1-0 in five-setters in 2018 ... 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 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has a 90-258 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 TIGERS
Princeton (1-4, 0-0 EIVA), out of Princeton, N.J., is a member of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA). The Tigers' season began in Southern California, with losses at USC, and then Long Beach State and CSUN around a five-set triumph over Stanford, all in Santa Barbara. They have been idle since a 3-0 home loss to Fort Wayne on Jan. 12, due to final exams. Princeton's second California trip of 2018 takes it to UCLA on Thursday, and finally to Pepperdine on Saturday. Seven of the 16 players on its 2018 roster hail from California, including two San Diego products. Sam Shweisky is in his ninth season at the Tiger helm.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 16-6, with two straight victories. The sides have faced off in La Jolla the past three seasons, and 11 of the last 12. The most recent meeting was on Feb. 1, 2017, with the Tritons winning in four sets behind Tanner Syftestad's match-high 21 kills on .486 hitting (21-4-35). On Jan. 27, 2016, UCSD rallied from 2-1 down to take a five-set decision. On Jan. 28, 2015, it was the Tigers leaving town with a straight-set victory, 25-18, 29-27 and 25-14. Before that, early in the 2013 season on Jan. 30, the Tritons won 3-1. UCSD previously dropped a five-set affair on Feb. 1, 2012, also at RIMAC Arena, after leading two sets to none.
ABOUT THE CARDINAL
Stanford (1-7, 0-0 MPSF) has struggled in the early going due to only having sophomore starting setter Paul Bischoff on the court in two of its eight matches thus far, including the Cardinal's lone win at Ball State in straight sets on Jan. 13. Stanford is 1-5 away from home, and is at No. 4 UC Irvine this Friday night before heading further south into La Jolla. The Tritons will play at Stanford on Friday, March 9. John Kosty, the 2010 AVCA Division I-II National Coach of the Year, is in his 12th season in charge. Stanford won the 2010 national title inside its own Maples Pavilion.
Stanford leads the all-time series, 49-3, and has won the last 13 meetings. Last year, it was a sweep in La Jolla after a five-set thriller (25-12, 23-25, 22-25, 25-23, 15-11) on Pac-12 Networks at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal swept the two 2016 matchups and took both in 2015, 3-1 at RIMAC Arena and 3-0 in Palo Alto. Set scores in La Jolla (2/14) were 25-23, 22-25, 25-13 and 25-18 as the Tritons levelled matters after two games, but ran out of steam, with the Cardinal opening up the third with seven consecutive points. UCSD last topped Stanford, 3-0, at Maples Pavilion on Feb. 11, 2011, when the Tritons were ranked No. 12 and defending national champion Stanford was No. 4. Scores were 25-18, 30-28 and 25-16, with UCSD in control throughout, hitting .477 as a team to just .182 for Stanford. Former standout outside hitter Carl Eberts, a sophomore at the time, produced a match-high 15 kills.
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FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
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UC San Diego has a split week next week. The Tritons wrap up a three-match homestand on Thursday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. against No. 6 BYU, before heading up to Irvine for a rematch with Concordia on Friday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m.