Tritons Upended by No. 8 Pepperdine in Four Sets
LA JOLLA, Calif. - Despite taking the opening game, the University of California San Diego dropped a 3-1 decision to No. 8 Pepperdine University in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men's volleyball match at RIMAC Arena on Friday night. Scores were 21-25, 25-14, 25-21 and 25-20.
With the loss, UCSD fell to 7-18 overall and 3-14 in the MPSF. The Tritons had been eliminated from MPSF Tournament contention last Saturday. Pepperdine moved to an even 10-10 overall and 8-9 in league play. The Waves clinched a tourney berth on Saturday, and are assured of an MPSF road quarterfinal next Saturday, April 15. UCSD was beaten in straight sets in this season's first meeting between the sides, in Malibu just eight days prior on March 30.
Junior opposite Tanner Syftestad led the Tritons with 17 kills before having to exit late in game three due to injury after landing on his opponent from an attack attempt. Senior outside hitter and fellow tri-captain Ian Colbert joined him in double figures with 12 kills.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter David Wieczorek was largely unstoppable for Pepperdine, leading all players with 28 kills on a .591 (28-2-44) hitting percentage.
Colbert got UCSD's opening-set victory off on a bang as his solo denial of Michael Wexter gave his side the early 2-1 edge. Calvin Manchenko, Milosh Stojcic and Bryan Zhu (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo) teamed up for a triple block of Noah Dyer for a 9-6 lead. Stojcic then clicked his serve off the tape and down, before a second successive service ace for the junior setter made it 12-7 and forced the night's first timeout out of legendary Pepperdine head coach Marv Dunphy.
The Waves closed to within three at 15-12, but coming out of UCSD's initial timeout, Zhu put down the huge kill from a Stojcic set. The Tritons went up 20-16 on a kill by senior middle blocker Shayne Beamer before the visitors whittled that deficit back down to a single tally at 20-19, but UCSD was able to hold it together, and Syftestad's lone ace sealed it on the first set point.
The second game was all Pepperdine, as it trotted out to leads of 4-1 and 9-4 ahead of the first timeout, and never looked back. The Waves got a triple block of their own late, by Dyer, Wexter and Mitchell Penning, for 23-12. They hit .722 (14-1-18).
The Tritons scored four of the first five points in the third, three on Wave attack errors, but surrendered the next five, including another triple stuff for a 4-4 tie by Wexter, Wieczorek and Clay Carr. A Syftestad kill preceded three more points by Pepperdine and a timeout. Though UCSD pulled to within one at 11-10, 12-11 and 13-12, it was never able to level matters again.
The fourth, like the third, was also close throughout, but with the Tritons always chasing after a pair of tie scores at 2-2 and 4-4. Two last kills by Wieczorek ended it.
Syftestad hit .483 (17-3-29). Stojcic finished with 42 assists, five digs, two aces, two block assists and one kill. Freshman libero Ryan Lew collected a match-high nine digs. Colbert added six digs. Manchenko, a senior outside hitter, contributed a season-high eight kills in a third straight start, with two digs, a block and an assist.
UC San Diego plays its 2017 home finale on Senior Night against No. 9 Stanford on Saturday, April 8. First serve at RIMAC Arena is slated for 7 p.m. after four outstanding Triton student-athletes are recognized. The match will also mark the final contest of UCSD's 25-year MPSF history, before the Tritons join the newly-formed Big West Conference as an associate member next January.