LONG BEACH, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team was swept by No. 2 Long Beach State in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) match inside the Walter Pyramid on Friday night. Scores were 28-26, 25-19 and 25-11.
UC San Diego fell to 5-13 overall and 2-11 in the MPSF with an eighth straight defeat after a five-match win streak. Conference leader Long Beach State won a 10th consecutive contest, having dropped a mere two sets along the way. The 49ers, now 17-2 overall and 13-1 in league play, swept the season series with the Tritons as 3-0 winners in La Jolla as well back on Feb. 11. They remained perfect at home at 8-0.
UCSD narrowly dropped an agonizing opening frame that featured 12 tie scores and a pair of lead changes. Both teams hit better than .400. The Tritons led 4-2 early after a three-point run punctuated by a Shayne Beamer ace, and 15-12 later on Devin Pontigon's kill when the Beach used the first timeout of the night. The score was knotted at 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 19-19 and 20-20 before LBSU finally wrestled away its first lead since 2-1, at 21-20. UCSD called its last timeout, and pulled even again at 21-21 on a 49er ball handling error.
Long Beach State tallied the next two for a 23-21 edge, but the Tritons wouldn't go away, leveling matters at 23-23 on a Pontigon kill. UCSD saved a trio of set points on two Tanner Syftestad kills around another Pontigon kill. Finally on the fourth set point, Kyle Ensing put down the decisive kill for the home side.
Pontigon, a true freshman outside hitter out of Oceanside (El Camino HS), hit .750 (6-0-8) in game one without an attack error.
Game two was also close, with seven tie scores and six lead changes. A 49er service error and Beamer ace gave the Tritons the slimmest of edges at 12-11, but the next five points went to the Beach around UCSD's first timeout, for 16-12. The visitors could not get closer than three points for the remainder. Another 3-0 mini-run put the 49ers firmly in command at 23-17, and shortly thereafter, at 2-0 in sets.
The third stanza was no contest in favor of Long Beach State, which scored the first two, and then went on a remarkable 11-0 run in completing the three-set triumph.
Syftestad held at least a share of the team high in kills for a 14th match in a row, with eight. Pontigon finished with seven. Fellow true freshman Ryan Lew collected 10 digs to share the match high with the MPSF's digs leader, senior libero counterpart Andrew Sato.
Junior setter Milosh Stojcic wound up with 26 assists, two digs, two blocks and a kill. Beamer provided six kills on .308 (6-2-13) hitting, two block assists, and a career-high-tying three service aces to lead all players.
UCSD was out-blocked, 11.5-3.0, and hit just .146 (29-16-89).
TJ DeFalco put down a match-high 15 kills and Ensing had 14. A third sophomore star for the 49ers, setter Josh Tuaniga, had 36 assists, three kills, and the lone solo block by either team on the night.
"We got off to a good start tonight," said UCSD head coach Kevin Ring. "We hit .424 in the first set and a lot of that was attributed to some very good passing in serve receive. I thought Milosh (Stojcic) did a nice job distributing the ball. We were very competitive in that first set. Our undoing was eight service errors in set one alone. That proved costly in a game that was 28-26. That could have been the difference.
"(In set two,) I thought we continued to pass really well, but our offense tailed off. We struggled to get kills from the pins. Our middles continued to work for us and do a couple of good things. Then in the third set, we broke down in serve receive and thus our offense dropped off even more. It was not the direction we wanted to go from set one to two to three. (Long Beach State was) on top of their game throughout the entire match."
It doesn't get any easier for the Tritons. They conclude a season-long four-match road stretch next weekend, traveling to Columbus, Ohio. Coming off of tonight's matchup with No. 2 Long Beach State, UCSD first faces defending national champion Ohio State, the No. 1 team in the land, on Friday, March 10. The Buckeyes are an undefeated 18-0 and winners of 41 successive contests. First serve at St. John Arena, site of the 2017 NCAA Championship, is set for 4 p.m. PT. The Tritons will then also play No. 11 Ball State in a neutral-site affair in Columbus on Saturday, March 11.