The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team returns to action this week after taking a break for winter quarter final exams. The Tritons (7-15, 3-11 MPSF) head into the stretch run of their Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) slate, first going to Malibu to take on No. 8 Pepperdine (8-10, 6-9 MPSF) on Thursday, March 30, with first serve at 7 p.m. inside Firestone Fieldhouse. They then fly north on Saturday, April 1, to take on the ninth-ranked Stanford Cardinal (11-10, 6-8 MPSF) inside Maples Pavilion (free admission) that evening at an earlier 6 p.m. to accomodate the national television broadcast on Pac-12 Bay Area. UCSD is 2-9 away from home.
The Tritons are not yet mathematically eliminated from MPSF Tournament contention, but are running out of time to make their move toward a first-ever berth, and likely need to win out. UCSD has as many overall wins in 2017 as the previous two seasons combined, and its most MPSF victories since notching four in 2013.
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. 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 @PeppVolleyball and @StanfordMVB this week.
NATIONAL EXPOSURE FOR TRITONS
This Saturday will mark the fourth and final time this season that UCSD appears on national television, as the match at Stanford (6 p.m.) will air on Pac-12 Bay Area with Kevin Barnett (@KevBarn14) and coaching legend Don Shaw (@bddonshaw) on the call. The Tritons were 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. 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 is coming off of back-to-back four-set home victories over Division II rivals prior to winter quarter final exams. The Tritons defeated MPSF foe California Baptist on Tuesday, March 14, and then completed their season sweep over Concordia on Friday, March 17. Tanner Syftestad excelled again, with 29 and 24 kills, respectively. He fell two shy of matching his career high against CBU. Like it did twice in Irvine back on Jan. 21, UCSD overturned a deficit against the Eagles after dropping the opener, 25-18. Shayne Beamer (13) and Ian Colbert (12) joined Syftestad in double-figure kills. Colbert (match-high 12 digs) and Milosh Stojcic (52 assists, 10 digs) had double-doubles.
TRITONS AMONG THE POLLS
UCSD was receiving votes 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 the March 7 edition. The Tritons remain a season-best No. 2 in the first-year Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll. UCSD is No. 1 nationally in strength of schedule and No. 16 in RPI.
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 on March 3, and at No. 1 Ohio State on March 10. The prior time that the Tritons had to play the top two teams in the land in consecutive matches, 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 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, and at a career-high 327, he has the most kills in a single season by a Triton since Carl Eberts was the last to reach the 300-mark at 335 in 2012. 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). Syftestad has achieved at least a share of the team high in each of the last 18 tilts, with the match high in 10. He ranks third in the MPSF at 4.30 kills per set and fourth nationally. Syftestad in fact is No. 1 in the MPSF and No. 2 in the country in both points (5.07) and attacks (9.59) per set. 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 tied for No. 5 nationally in 2017. His 29 kills over California Baptist (3/14) and 55 attacks versus Concordia (3/17) both share the top spot for a four-set contest.
STOJCIC MOVING UP RANKS
Junior setter Milosh Stojcic is eighth in career assists in the all-time UCSD record book, having moved past Garrett Dempsey (1484) on March 3 at Long Beach State and Matt Breja (1602) on March 17 at home against Concordia. The Redondo Beach native has 1618 assists. He surpassed the 1000 mark at UCLA on Jan. 14.
SYFTESTAD'S KILLER INSTINCT
Junior opposite Tanner Syftestad's kills accounted for UCSD's final two points in the first four wins during its five-match success streak from Jan. 21-Feb. 8, as well as the March 17 home triumph over Concordia. He also produced the decisive kill on match point in another recent four-set home decision over California Baptist (3/14).
15-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28 vs. HIU)
4-Ian Colbert (Best of 14 on 2/25 vs. UCLA)
2-Shayne Beamer (Best of 13 on 3/17 vs. CUI)
2-Devin Pontigon (Best of 14 on 1/7 vs. GCU)
1-Alec Flowers (10 on 1/20 vs. UCI)
22-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 56 on 1/28 vs. HIU; 19 with 20-plus and 12 with 30-plus)
35-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
14-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)
4-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)
7-Ian Colbert (Best of 13 on 3/14/17 vs. CBU)
4-Ryan Lew (Best of 20 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
3-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 11 on 3/11/17 vs. BSU)
1-Ryan Blaich (10 on 3/5/16 vs. UCI)
1-Xander Jimenez (11 on 3/14/17 vs. CBU)
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 eight double-doubles (three in 2017):
Ian Colbert (5)
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)
3/17/17 vs. Concordia (12 kills, 12 digs)
Milosh Stojcic (3)
1/23/16 at Holy Names (31 assists, 10 digs)
3/11/17 vs. Ball State (16 assists, 11 digs)
3/17/17 vs. Concordia (52 assists, 10 digs)
Ryan Blaich (1)
3/5/16 vs. UC Irvine (49 assists, 10 digs)
Tanner Syftestad (1)
1/7/15 at Concordia (12 kills, 10 digs)
TRITONS AMONG STATISTICAL LEADERS
Through March 26, Tanner Syftestad ranks third in the MPSF and fourth in D I-II in kills per set (4.30), and first in the MPSF and second nationally in both points (5.07) and attacks (9.59) per set. He is also eighth in the MPSF and 27th nationally in aces per set (0.33). Milosh Stojcic is seventh in the MPSF and 24th in the country in assists per set (9.10). Ryan Lew is ninth in the MPSF and 29th nationally in digs per set (2.03). Lew's 20-dig effort against Hope International on Jan. 28 is the eighth-best single-match total nationally (tied) and third in the MPSF. As a team, UCSD is eighth in the MPSF and 17th in the land at 2.17 blocks per set.
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.
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 1-11 in three-set matches, 4-3 in four sets and 2-1 in five-setters in 2017 ... Of the Tritons' 22 dates, Devin Pontigon had at least a share of the team high in kills in each of the first four, before Tanner Syftestad led the Tritons in the last 18, with the match high in 10 ... UCSD's schedule features 13 of 27 matches at home, as well as last 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 ... 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 ... 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 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 84-251 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 WAVES
No. 8 Pepperdine (8-10, 6-9 MPSF) sits seventh in the MPSF and has yet to guarantee its conference tournament entry. The Waves had dropped five straight prior to back-to-back road wins at CSUN and Stanford, but then fell 3-1 to No. 5 UC Irvine at home this past Saturday. Pepperdine is 4-5 at home in 2017, and has been led for much of the year by redshirt sophomore outside hitter David Wieczorek (3.64 kills per set). The teams will meet again in La Jolla the following Friday, April 7. Legendary head coach Marv Dunphy is in his 34th season in charge at his alma mater.
Pepperdine leads the all-time series, 48-3, and has won 10 straight since a 3-2 Triton triumph in Malibu on March 12, 2011. The Waves had posted eight 3-0 sweeps in a row, including last year's first meeting in Malibu (1/20), before a five-set affair in La Jolla (3/2). UCSD had previously taken both ends of the 2010 season series.
ABOUT THE CARDINAL
No. 9 Stanford (11-10, 6-8 MPSF) is in sixth in the MPSF standings, just above Pepperdine by half a match, and also still looking to lock up a tourney trip. The Cardinal have dropped three straight, all in league play. They are 4-5 at home, and will first host No. 5 UC Irvine this Friday night before welcoming in the Tritons. John Kosty, the 2010 AVCA Division I-II National Coach of the Year, is in his 11th season in charge. Stanford won the 2010 national title inside its own Maples Pavilion.
Stanford leads the all-time series, 47-3, and has won the last 11 meetings, including both of last season's matchups, 3-0. The Cardinal 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. Set 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
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!
UC San Diego turns right around and hosts this week's two opponents in one final home weekend for the 2017 season. The Tritons welcome in No. 8 Pepperdine on Friday, April 7, and No. 9 Stanford on Saturday, April 8, with first serves inside RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla set for 7 p.m. Saturday will be Senior Night, with Shayne Beamer, Ian Colbert, Calvin Manchenko and Josh Schmidt recognized following the conclusion of the contest against the Cardinal.