The University of California San Diego men's volleyball program begins the 2017 calendar year with three matches in six days. The Tritons host the University of Manitoba from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in an exhibition contest on Monday, Jan. 2, at 4:30 p.m. inside RIMAC Arena. Parking and admission are free. They then make the short trip north on Thursday, Jan. 5, to officially launch both the campaign and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) slate at No. 8 UC Irvine (1-0), with first serve at 7 p.m. on Crawford Court. UCSD's home opener is two days later, on Saturday, Jan. 7, against non-conference foe Grand Canyon. That one is set for 5 p.m. at RIMAC Arena.
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. UCSD students and kids under seven years of age are admitted free. Tickets are available at the main entrance to RIMAC Arena on the night of the match. Parking permits are required on the UCSD 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. Parking and admission are free for Monday's Manitoba exhibition.
TRITON VOLLEYBALL ON UCSDTRITONS.TV
UC San Diego Athletics and local technology giant ViaSat once again in 2017 bring you Triton Men's Volleyball on UCSDtritons.tv, an online streaming platform. All broadcasts are in high definition, and can be viewed from smartphones and tablets alongside desktop and laptop computers. UCSD alum and former Triton baseball pitcher (2007-08) Tim Strombel (@Timmy2Sides) serves as the primary play-by-play voice, and is typically joined by 1988 Olympic gold medalist, beach legend and current UCSD women's volleyball head coach Ricci Luyties. Viewing is subscription-based, though it is free from UCSD campus IP addresses. A package that gives viewers access to all streamed events through the 2016-17 academic year is available for $34.99. A single-day pay-per-view option can be purchased for $5.99. The channel also carries all Triton home basketball contests, a majority of baseball, soccer, softball and water polo games, and a variety of other home events featuring virtually every one of UCSD's 23 intercollegiate sports at least once. Events are archived.
In addition to UCSD home matches featuring live online video at our streaming portal, UCSDtritons.tv, all contests, home and away, have live stats. A majority of road dates also have video, including Thursday's opener at UCI for free. 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, and @UCImvb on Jan. 5.
NATIONAL EXPOSURE FOR TRITONS
UC San Diego will be on national television four times in 2017. The Tritons can be seen on Pac-12 Los Angeles at UCLA on Saturday, Jan. 14, and on Pac-12 Bay Area at Stanford on Saturday, April 1. In between, both of UCSD's matches at preseason MPSF favorite BYU on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday, Feb. 18, air on BYUtv.
The victory over Charleston on Jan. 8, 2016, 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. The Tritons are 4-7 in openers under Kevin Ring.
25TH AND FINAL SEASON IN MPSF
The 2017 campaign will be UCSD's milestone 25th and final one in the MPSF. The Tritons will join the newly-formed Big West Conference as an associate member when play begins in that league in 2018. Full Big West members CSUN, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara also move over from the MPSF, giving the conference the minimum six teams required for postseason NCAA automatic qualification. Before they go, the Tritons will be attempting to qualify for a first-ever MPSF Tournament, after first breaking a string of 45 consecutive losses in league play dating back to late in the 2014 season, when UCSD swept visiting Pacific on April 11.
KEVIN RING SEASON OUTLOOK QUOTES
"The 2017 UC San Diego men's volleyball squad is the most experienced team we've had over the past few seasons, with a number of returning starters. Experience goes a long way in the very competitive MPSF, and we look for our three most experienced players, Ian Colbert, Shayne Beamer and Tanner Syftestad, to lead the team offensively. For the first time in years, the MPSF is going with an unbalanced schedule, which provides each team the most non-conference opportunities. We've taken an aggressive approach to scheduling, as we will face Ohio State, Ball State, BYU, Princeton and Grand Canyon, as well as a few others in non-conference play. We are excited about our move to the Big West Conference for the 2018 season, but we are just as excited and determined for our final run in the MPSF. It is going to be another highly competitive year in the conference."
COLBERT COMING OFF CAREER YEAR
Ian Colbert really stepped up in his junior campaign. The outside hitter out of Belmont in Northern California paced the Tritons in kills (233) and was second in digs (154) and third in aces (13). He had a team-best nine matches with double-figure kills, including a career-high 19 on three occasions. The middle one of those efforts came in just three frames at No. 5 Hawai'i (1/31), marking the most kills in a three-set match by a Triton since Frank Fritsch had 20 at No. 8 UCLA on Jan. 23, 2009, when sets went to 30 points. Colbert also posted his first four double-doubles.
20-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 18 two times; last on 3/5/16 vs. UCI)
10-Ian Colbert (Best of 19 three times; last on 3/2/16 vs. PEP)
5-Alec Flowers (Best of 15 on 3/6/15 vs. CBU)
2-Shayne Beamer (Best of 14 on 1/10/15 at GCU)
1-Lucas La Mont (12 on 1/30/15 at BYU)
1-Josh Schmidt (10 on 1/27/16 vs. PRIN)
1-Bryan Zhu (11 on 3/2/16 vs. PEP)
1-Bryan Zhu (10 on 3/13/15 at STAN)
Four current Tritons have combined for seven double-doubles:
Ian Colbert (4)
1/23/16 at Holy Names (13 kills, 10 digs)
1/27/16 vs. Princeton (19 kills, 11 digs)
2/5/16 vs. California Baptist (17 kills, 10 digs)
3/5/16 vs. UC Irvine (10 kills, 10 digs)
Ryan Blaich (1)
3/5/16 vs. UC Irvine (49 assists, 10 digs)
Milosh Stojcic (1)
1/23/16 at Holy Names (31 assists, 10 digs)
Tanner Syftestad (1)
1/7/15 at Concordia (12 kills, 10 digs)
UC San Diego more than doubled its 2015 win output in 2016, from two to five. The 2017 edition will be one of 12th-year head coach Kevin Ring’s most experienced squads, with five starters back among 13 letterwinners. Top returners include fourth-year seniors Ian Colbert and Shayne Beamer, and junior opposite Tanner Syftestad. Colbert turned in a career year almost all across the board in 2016 as one of just two Tritons to start all 28 matches, with a team-best 233 kills. Syftestad was first in kills in 2015 (241) and second in 2016 (216). Beamer did not miss a match the last two seasons, with 117-plus kills in both, and led UCSD in total blocks as a junior. The schedule features 13 of 27 matches at home in La Jolla, as well as a March trip to Columbus, Ohio, to face defending national champion Ohio State and Ball State.
Team tri-captains for the 2017 season were designated as fourth-year senior outside hitter Ian Colbert, redshirt junior outside hitter Calvin Manchenko, and junior opposite Tanner Syftestad. Syftestad is a two-time captain.
UNIQUE STORIES IN TRITON LINEUP
• Tanner Syftestad is a third-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 55 of 56 matches his first two seasons, starting 52 of them at opposite and producing double-figure kill totals in 20. Syftestad led UCSD in kills (241), aces (15) and total blocks (75) in 2015, and was second in all three categories (216-15-44) in 2016.
• 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 that March 6.
UCSD's schedule has 13 of 27 matches at home ... UCSD was picked 12th in the MPSF preseason coaches' poll, with BYU the favorite ... Tanner Syftestad was one of 17 standouts around the country named to the preseason watch list for the third annual Bryan Ivie Award, presented by Off the Block to the best opposite in NCAA Division I-II ... A league-high seven Tritons earned MPSF All-Academic distinction in 2016, including returners Ian Colbert, Alec Flowers, Luke McDonald, Milosh Stojcic and Bryan Zhu, with Colbert and Zhu now two-time honorees.
Of the 23 players on UCSD's 2017 roster, 21 hail from California ... UCSD has 14 returners, 13 of whom saw action a season ago, and nine newcomers ... There are two San Diego products in redshirt junior middle Bryan Zhu (Rancho Bernardo HS) and true freshman outside hitter Devin Pontigon (Oceanside/El Camino HS) ... Former UCLA and U.S. national team standout Nick Vogel is in his first year on the coaching staff, and has taken over as the top assistant, with UCSD graduate Paul Warren in his 11th season on the Triton bench.
HEAD COACH KEVIN RING
Kevin Ring begins his 12th season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has a 77-236 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 BISONS
Manitoba (11-1, 11-1 Canada West) has won 10 straight matches and currently tops the 13-team Canada West Universities Athletic Association standings. Devren Dear and Adam DeJonckheere pace the Bisons in kills with 132 and 119, respectively. They have been out of action since Dec. 8, and complete their California trip with a pair of dates at Long Beach State, Jan. 4-5, before resuming Canada West play on Jan. 13. Garth Pischke is in his 35th season in charge.
ABOUT THE ANTEATERS
No. 8 UC Irvine (1-0, 0-0 MPSF) struggled through injuries to a 10-20 overall mark last year after being picked to place second behind BYU in the MPSF preseason poll, finishing tied for eighth before being eliminated in the MPSF quarterfinals. The Anteaters are favored for fourth in 2017. Included among their returners are All-Americans Tamir Hershko and Michael Saeta. David Kniffin is in his fifth year in charge at UC Irvine, having guided the 'Eaters to the 2013 national crown in his first go-around. UCI opened with a straight-set victory at Concordia on Thursday, and hosts Fort Wayne on Tuesday before welcoming in UCSD.
UC Irvine leads the all-time series, 41-10, and has taken the last 11 meetings dating back to a 3-1 UCSD triumph in Irvine on Jan. 12, 2011. The Anteaters have won 3-0 at home in each of the past three seasons, with the most recent meeting going to UCI in five frames in La Jolla on March 5, 2016. Previously, the 'Eaters pulled out a five-set thriller at the Bren Events Center after UCSD had taken the first two frames on March 31, 2013. Scores were 23-25, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21 and 15-10.
ABOUT THE ANTELOPES
Grand Canyon (0-0, 0-0 MIVA), from Phoenix, Ariz., is in its fourth year in the NCAA Division I, having previously been a Division II rival of UCSD. The Antelopes are members of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) for one final season in 2017, before moving to the MPSF. They finished a program-best 17-12 overall in 2016 and an even 8-8 in the MIVA, and had their season ended at Lewis in the MIVA Tournament for the fourth straight year. The Lopes are picked to finish sixth of nine teams in the MIVA preseason poll, with junior outside hitter Shalev Saada a preseason All-MIVA selection. They start their campaign at UC Irvine on Friday, Jan. 6. Matt Werle is in his second season as the GCU head coach.
UCSD leads the all-time series, 3-2. GCU won the most recent meeting, 3-0 in La Jolla last season on Jan. 9 by set scores of 26-24, 26-24 and 25-12. The Tritons took the two previous matchups, five-set affairs for their first win of both 2014 and 2015. They rallied from a two-set deficit to snatch the road victory on Jan. 10, 2015, putting four players in double-figure kills. The 2014 date was in La Jolla on Feb. 28. GCU won 3-0 at home on Jan. 15, 2012. UCSD blanked GCU, 3-0, in La Jolla in its 2009 season finale on April 18.
For the latest in Triton athletic gear, make sure to visit ucsdtritonsgear.com. Run by UCSD Athletics' online partner, Advanced-Online, the site provides an on-demand option for Triton athletic apparel and merchandise. Fans have access to over 600 products that can be processed and shipped within 24 hours.
FOR THE YOUNGER CROWD
Got some young Triton fans in your family? If they are in eighth grade or under, check out the Junior Triton Club. Membership includes a free t-shirt, admission to over 100 UCSD home athletic events, and much more!
UCSD hits the road to MPSF foes UC Santa Barbara and second-ranked UCLA on Friday, Jan. 13, and Saturday, Jan. 14, respectively. First serves are set for 7 p.m., with the latter contest airing nationally on Pac-12 Los Angeles.