The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team flew to Columbus, Ohio, early Thursday to conclude a season-long four-match road stretch this weekend. The Tritons (5-13, 2-11 MPSF) are out of conference at top-ranked and undefeated reigning national champion Ohio State (18-0, 8-0 MIVA) on Friday, March 10, at 4 p.m. PT. They remain in Columbus for a neutral-site date with No. 12 Ball State (14-5, 6-4 MIVA) on Saturday, March 11, with that first serve at 2 p.m. PT at Ohio State's St. John Arena, site of the 2017 NCAA Championship. Admission is free. UCSD is 2-7 on the road.
The Tritons' last visit to the region was seven years ago to Romeoville, Ill., for a pair of matches at fellow Division II program Lewis, March 12-13, 2010. UCSD was last in the Eastern Time Zone in 2009, in Springfield, Mass.
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. 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 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 both this week. Friday's matchup with Ohio State is available via paid subscription (auto-renewed $14.95 monthly) on BTN Plus, with Saturday's date with Ball State able to be viewed without charge on OSU Men's Volleyball's Facebook page. 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 @OhioState_MVB this week.
NATIONAL EXPOSURE FOR TRITONS
UCSD is on national television four times during this 2017 season. The Tritons were first on Pac-12 Los Angeles for a 3-0 loss to No. 2 UCLA inside Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 14. Their two matches at No. 3 BYU, both 3-0 defeats, were broadcast on BYUtv. UCSD can be seen on Pac-12 Bay Area at No. 8 Stanford on Saturday, April 1, at 6 p.m. The Tritons were on Pac-12 Networks one time prior to Jan. 14, a 3-0 defeat at USC on March 4, 2015.
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego lost 3-1 at CSUN and 3-0 at second-ranked league leader Long Beach State last week. The Tritons knotted the match against the Matadors at one set apiece on Wednesday night, but dropped the next two frames. Tanner Syftestad (16) and Shayne Beamer (11) each reached double figures in kills, with Syftestad also serving three aces, though UCSD allowed 10 aces to the opponent. In Long Beach on Friday, Syftestad again led in kills with eight, while freshman libero Ryan Lew collected 10 digs to share the match high. UCSD really challenged the red-hot 49ers in the opener, but ultimately succumbed on a fourth set point 28-26.
TRITONS AMONG THE POLLS
UCSD was receiving votes just outside of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I-II Top 15 Poll for three straight weeks and the first time since Jan. 13, 2014, before Tuesday's latest edition. The Tritons are a season-best No. 2 (tied with California Baptist) in the first-year Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll.
25TH AND FINAL MPSF SEASON
The 2017 campaign is UCSD's milestone 25th and final one in the MPSF. The Tritons have been in the MPSF ever since it debuted in 1993. They 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. The Tritons have never qualified for the MPSF Tournament.
THE MOST DIFFICULT OF BACK-TO-BACKS
UCSD lost 3-0 at No. 2 Long Beach State in its most recent match last Friday, March 3. The Tritons now take on No. 1 Ohio State this coming Friday, March 10, also on the road. The last time they had to play the top two teams in the land in consecutive fashion, actually was only just a year ago, both away from home as well. UCSD lost 3-0 at No. 2 UCLA on Feb. 13, 2016, and then 3-0 at No. 1 LBSU on Feb. 17.
The come-from-behind, four-set triumph at USC on Saturday, Feb. 4, finally broke a string of 49 consecutive MPSF losses dating back to late in the 2014 season, when the Tritons swept visiting Pacific on April 11. UCSD extended to a five-match win streak with a home sweep of No. 13 CSUN on Feb. 8, reaching the program's longest since another five-match stretch from March 9-31, 2012, all in MPSF play. The back-to-back MPSF successes against USC and CSUN also marked the first time for that achievement since that same period in 2012 (March 30-31).
Opposite and tri-captain Tanner Syftestad is having a great junior year. Over a remarkable five-match stretch from Jan. 20-Feb. 4, he produced kill totals of, in order, 23, 22, 31, 21 and 26, hitting .357 or better in each contest and averaging 5.35 kills per set (123 in 23). He has achieved at least a share of the team high in each of the last 14 tilts, with the match high in eight. Incidentally, his kills accounted for UCSD's final two points in the first four wins during its recent five-match success streak. Syftestad ranks seventh in the MPSF at 4.05 kills per set and eighth nationally. His career-high 31 kills against Hope International on Jan. 28 is the third-best single-match total in both the nation and MPSF. It was also a rally-scoring-era (since 2011) program record, eclipsing Johl Awerkamp's 30 from April 5, 2013. Syftestad's career-best 56 attacks in that same match, is No. 3 nationally in 2017.
The Tritons have "hit" a number of hitting milestones during this 2017 season. Junior Milosh Stojcic set them to a .516 attack rate in a straight-set home victory over then-No. 13 CSUN on Feb. 8, as UCSD attacked at an above-.500 clip for only the second time since 2000. It may have been the program's best effort in an MPSF match in its 25-year league membership. The Tritons then hit .324 in a 3-0 loss at No. 3 BYU on Feb. 17. That was their best percentage against BYU at least going back through the 2001 season, and likely ever in their 42-match all-time series with the Cougars. In a four-set home loss to No. 6 UCLA on Feb. 25, UCSD hit .374, its highest against the Bruins since a .412 clip in a 3-1 home triumph on April 10, 2010.
12-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28 vs. HIU)
3-Ian Colbert (Best of 14 on 2/25 vs. UCLA)
2-Devin Pontigon (Best of 14 on 1/7 vs. GCU)
1-Shayne Beamer (11 on 3/1 at CSUN)
1-Alec Flowers (10 on 1/20 vs. UCI)
18-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 56 on 1/28 vs. HIU; 16 with 20-plus and 10 with 30-plus)
32-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
13-Ian Colbert (Best of 19 three times; last on 3/2/16 vs. PEP)
6-Alec Flowers (Best of 15 on 3/6/15 vs. CBU)
3-Shayne Beamer (Best of 14 on 1/10/15 at GCU)
2-Devin Pontigon (14 on 1/7/17 vs. GCU)
1-Luke 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)
5-Ian Colbert (Best of 11 on 1/27/16 vs. PRIN)
4-Ryan Lew (Best of 20 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
1-Ryan Blaich (10 on 3/5/16 vs. UCI)
1-Milosh Stojcic (10 on 1/23/16 at HNU)
1-Tanner Syftestad (10 on 1/7/15 at CUI)
1-Bryan Zhu (10 on 3/13/15 at STAN)
Four current Tritons have combined for seven double-doubles (none in 2017):
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)
TRITONS AMONG STATISTICAL LEADERS
Through March 5, Tanner Syftestad ranks seventh in the MPSF and eighth in D I-II in kills per set (4.05), and fifth in the MPSF and seventh nationally in points per set (4.75). He is also tied for eighth in the MPSF in aces per set (0.32). Syftestad is second in the MPSF and third nationally in attacks per set (9.21). Drew Sloane is tied for 10th in the league at 1.00 blocks per set. Milosh Stojcic is eighth in the MPSF and 27th in the country in assists per set (9.03). Ryan Lew is sixth in the MPSF and 18th nationally in digs per set (2.22). Lew's 20-dig effort against Hope International on Jan. 28 is the sixth-best single-match total nationally (tied) and second in the MPSF. As a team, UCSD is eighth in the MPSF and 20th in the land at 2.11 blocks per set.
STOJCIC INTO TOP 10
Junior setter Milosh Stojcic is now ninth in career assists in the all-time UCSD record book, having moved past Garrett Dempsey (1484) last Friday in Long Beach. The Redondo Beach native has 1486 assists. He surpassed the 1000 mark at UCLA on Jan. 14.
Tanner Syftestad's 31 kills against Hope International on Jan. 28 were the most by a UCSD player since Frank Fritsch's 33 in a four-set home win over Hawai'i on March 13, 2009 ... Ryan Lew's match-best 20 digs in that same contest were the most by a Triton since career leader Eric Leserman's 20 in a five-set home loss to Stanford on Feb. 3, 2007 ... The Tritons' 3-2 win at Concordia on Jan. 21 marked their first five-set victory since a home date with Princeton on Jan. 27, 2016 ... UCSD's 15.5 total team blocks against the Eagles are the most for the Tritons since they combined for 20.0 in another five-set triumph at USC on March 16, 2013.
UC San Diego more than doubled its 2015 win output in 2016, from two to five. The 2017 edition is 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.
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.
Team tri-captains for the 2017 season were designated as fourth-year outside hitters Ian Colbert and 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 intercollegiate men's volleyball. 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 is 1-9 in three-set matches, 2-3 in four sets and 2-1 in five-setters in 2017 ... UCSD's schedule features 13 of 27 matches at home, as well as this week's trip to Columbus, Ohio, to face defending national champion Ohio State and Ball State ... The Tritons are 4-8 in season openers under Kevin Ring ... Devin Pontigon (1/9) and Ryan Lew (1/23, 1/30 and 2/6) have picked up Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week honorable mentions this season ... 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 ... Of the Tritons' 18 dates, Pontigon had at least a share of the team high in kills in each of the first four, before Syftestad led the Tritons in the last 14, with the match high in eight ... 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 22 players on UCSD's roster, 21 are from California, with fourth-year outside hitter Calvin Manchenko a native of Melville, N.Y. ... UCSD has 14 returners, 13 of whom saw action a season ago, and eight newcomers ... Five Tritons have made their college debut in true freshmen Ryan Lew, Bailey Militar, Devin Pontigon and Connor Walbrecht, and redshirt freshman Xander Jimenez ... There are two San Diego products in Pontigon (Oceanside/El Camino HS), an outside hitter, and redshirt junior middle Bryan Zhu (Rancho Bernardo 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 is in his 12th season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has an 82-249 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 BUCKEYES
No. 1 Ohio State (18-0, 8-0 MIVA) posted a 3-1 home victory over Saint Francis in its lone match last week on March 3, the result breaking the 56-year-old Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association's record for longest win streak, now at 41. Loyola had won 40 in a row from 2014-15. The Buckeyes are 11-0 inside St. John Arena in 2017. Pete Hanson is in 33rd season at the Ohio State helm, with a pair of national titles to his credit in 2011 and 2016.
UCSD leads the all-time series, 3-2. No. 14 UCSD pulled off a 3-1 upset at home over the then-third-ranked Buckeyes on March 24, 2011. The Tritons last visited Columbus early in the 2006 season, dropping two four-set affairs to Ohio State on Jan. 13 and Jan. 15. Before that, UCSD entertained Ohio State in La Jolla Jan. 18-19, 2003, winning 3-1 and then 3-0.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS
No. 12 Ball State (14-5, 6-4 MIVA) is located in Muncie, Ind., and like Ohio State, is a member of the MIVA. The Cardinals face No. 6 UC Irvine on Friday night in Columbus prior to Saturday's date with UCSD. They are coming off of a home split against Grand Canyon, with a 3-0 win on March 1 and a five-set loss the next night. Junior middle Matt Walsh leads the country in blocking at 1.31 per set. Joel Walton is in his 19th season in charge at his alma mater.
Ball State is a perfect 6-0 against UCSD all-time, with all six of those matches having taken place in La Jolla. The teams had not faced off in over two decades prior to the Cardinals' sweep on March 7, 2015. Ball State previously took a 3-1 decision on March 9, 1994. That was a year before RIMAC Arena was even opened. Ball State also topped the Tritons on March 7, 1992 (3-0), March 5, 1991 (3-1), March 7, 1990 (3-0), and March 7, 1989 (3-1).
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 returns home to host conference and Division II rival California Baptist on Tuesday, March 14. First serve at RIMAC Arena is set for an earlier-than-usual 6 p.m. The Tritons then welcome in Concordia Irvine for a non-league tilt on Friday, March 17, at 7 p.m.