Tritons Open First Season of Big West Conference Men's Volleyball at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament
A NEW ERA BEGINS FRIDAY FOR TRITON MEN'S VOLLEYBALL
The University of California San Diego men's volleyball program opens its historic 2018 campaign with a pair of matches at the Wooden Classic Tournament, hosted by UCLA. The Tritons, associate members of the brand-new Big West Conference, will be taking on a pair of fellow NCAA Division II institutions. They begin the year on Friday, Jan. 5, against McKendree University, from Lebanon, Ill., and the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA). UC San Diego then meets King University of Bristol, Tenn., and Conference Carolinas (CC) on Saturday, Jan. 6. First serve for both contests is set for 5 p.m. inside the John Wooden Center on the UCLA campus in Westwood. There will be no admission charge for UCSD's two matches.
Select UC San Diego home matches in 2018 will again feature live online video on UCSDtritons.tv. Broadcasts are in high definition, generally with multiple cameras, and can be viewed from smartphones and tablets alongside desktop and laptop computers. Events are archived. This season, viewing will be free, with no login required, and can also be accessed via BigWest.TV. All contests, home and away, have live stats. A majority of road dates also have video, though this week's activity at UCLA does not. 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.
General admission tickets for home volleyball matches in 2018 will again be $8 for adults and $5 for visiting students, seniors (65 and older), children (7 and older) and UCSD Alumni Association members. UC San Diego students and kids under seven years of age are admitted free. Tickets are available at the RIMAC Arena box office on the night of the match. Parking permits are required on the UC San Diego 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.
The UC San Diego men's volleyball program joined the Big West Conference as an associate member when the league announced on May 31, 2016, that it was adding men's volleyball as its 18th sponsored sport, for the 2018 season. On Nov. 27, 2017, UC San Diego was officially invited to become a member of the NCAA Division I Big West. The Tritons will begin a four-year reclassification period starting in the fall of 2020. They will play a full Big West schedule that season and will be eligible for National Collegiate Championships in men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, and fencing. For the 2024-25 academic year, all sports will be eligible to compete in Big West and NCAA Division I championships. Read the full press release here.
#BWCMVB AT A GLANCE
UC San Diego Men's Volleyball begins a brand-new era in 2018 as 13th-year head coach Kevin Ring leads the Tritons into the inaugural year of the Big West Conference as an associate member after 25 seasons in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). UCSD will be joined by full Big West members CSUN, Hawai'i, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, all of whom have also moved over from the MPSF, to give the Big West the minimum six teams necessary to maintain an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. All six squads will make the Big West Tournament, to be held this first season at LBSU's Walter Pyramid, April 19-21. That means that UC San Diego is assured its first postseason match since winning the Molten Division III invitational national championship in 2000. The top two seeds will earn a bye into the semifinals on April 20. The winner of the Big West Tournament on April 21, will be one of the seven teams participating in the 2018 National Collegiate Championship.
UC San Diego was one of four teams receiving votes outside of the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll on Dec. 7. This is the first time since 2014 that the Tritons have gained mention in the AVCA's preseason edition. UC San Diego ended the 2017 campaign ranked No. 2 in the then-first-year Off the Block (OTB)/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll. Of this week's season-opening Division II opponents, McKendree appeared at No. 5 in that final listing, with King receiving one vote outside of the top five. In the first-year VolleyMob Men's Power Rankings, UCSD is the preseason No. 20. The Tritons are No. 24 in OTB's preseason power poll.
UC SAN DIEGO IN THE AVCA POLL
• Dec. 7 (Preseason): RV
UC San Diego is 4-8 in openers under Kevin Ring. The Tritons fell in straight sets at UC Irvine a year ago after a home sweep over Charleston on Jan. 8, 2016, which had 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.
KEVIN RING SEASON OUTLOOK QUOTES
(On the upcoming season) "We return a number of key players from last year's squad, so we are looking to build upon our performance from last season. We've got a motivated group of student-athletes, with a strong senior class, looking to make this our best season ever. I think we have the chance to do that. I look at the season in three segments: 1) non-conference match schedule, 2) Big West Conference regular-season schedule and 3) Big West Conference Tournament. Our goal is to grow as a team so that we gain valuable experience as we head into each new segment of the season, with the ultimate goal to be playing our best volleyball in the Big West Tournament."
(On joining the Big West for men's volleyball) "I am extremely excited about the inaugural Big West men's volleyball season. We've got a group of coaches within the Big West, along with the conference office, committed to being the top men's volleyball conference in the country. Every match we play leading up to our Big West schedule will be important for the strength of the conference, but the real excitement begins when we open up conference play. UCSD Men's Volleyball, players and coaches alike, are thrilled to be the first program at UCSD to compete within the Big West Conference and represent our school."
SCINTILLATING SEASON FOR SYFTESTAD
Tanner Syftestad stepped up in a big way in his junior campaign. The opposite hitter out of Sacramento led the Tritons in kills (366), aces (28) and total blocks (62). Syftestad averaged a remarkable 4.21 kills per set, which ranked fifth in the nation. He was also third in points (4.92) and attacks (9.33) per set. Syftestad had a team-best 17 matches with double-figure kills, including a career-high 31 at home against Hope International on Jan. 28 in the middle of an incredible five-match stretch of kill totals of 20-plus. He held at least a share of the team lead in kills in 20 of the 25 matches he appeared in, and enters his final year 10th in the career record book in kills (823), ninth in attacks (2093) and tied for 11th in aces (58). Syftestad, who earned Off the Block Division II National Player of the Year and All-MPSF Second Team distinction, as well as VolleyballMag.com All-America honorable mention, will look to become just the sixth player in program history to reach the 1000-kill milestone.
STOJCIC IN TOP 10
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic enters his fourth and final collegiate season ranked No. 7 all-time at UC San Diego in career assists, with 1780. The Redondo Beach native surpassed the 1000 mark at UCLA on Jan. 14, 2017. He was the lone Triton to start all 27 matches a year ago.
37-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU; seven with 20-plus and one with 30-plus)
6-Alec Flowers (Best of 15 on 3/6/15 vs. CBU)
2-Bryan Zhu (Best of 11 on 3/2/16 vs. PEP)
1-Xander Jimenez (11 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
1-Luke La Mont (12 on 1/30/15 at BYU)
1-Nathan Thalken (11 on 4/1/17 at STAN)
68-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 56 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU; 43 with 20-plus, 22 with 30+, 11 with 40+ and two with 50+)
1-Bryan Zhu (10 on 3/13/15 at STAN)
Two current Tritons have combined for four career double-doubles:
Milosh Stojcic (3)
3/17/17 vs. Concordia (52 assists, 10 digs)
3/11/17 vs. Ball State (16 assists, 11 digs)
1/23/16 at Holy Names (31 assists, 10 digs)
Tanner Syftestad (1)
1/7/15 at Concordia (12 kills, 10 digs)
Back for UC San Diego head coach Kevin Ring in 2018 are his starting setter, Milosh Stojcic, primary libero, Ryan Lew, and senior opposite hitter Tanner Syftestad, who earned Off the Block's very first Division II National Player of the Year award, as well as VolleyballMag.com All-America honorable mention and All-MPSF Second Team selection. The now-third-year team captain had a tremendous junior campaign with team bests of 366 kills (4.21 per set), 28 aces and 62 total blocks, to go along with 102 digs. Stojcic was the only Triton to start all 27 matches and produced 9.08 assists per set and 107 digs. As a true freshman, Lew paced the squad with 154 digs, averaging two per set. Coming off a 2017 season in which it posted a five-match win streak that included triumphs at USC and at home against Princeton and CSUN, UC San Diego's 2018 schedule features 13 of 27 matches in La Jolla. The Tritons open the campaign at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament, and also travel to Phoenix, Ariz., with a mid-February trip to Lebanon, Ill., and St. Charles, Mo. Their 10-match Big West slate begins Feb. 23 at UC Santa Barbara.
UC SAN DIEGO CAPTAINS
Team tri-captains for the 2018 season were designated as seniors Alec Flowers, Luke La Mont and Tanner Syftestad. Syftestad is now a three-year captain, while Flowers and La Mont are first-timers.
UNIQUE STORIES IN TRITON LINEUP
• Tanner Syftestad is a fourth-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 80 of 83 matches his first three seasons, starting 76 of them at opposite and producing double-figure kill totals in 37. Syftestad led UC San Diego in kills (241), aces (15) and total blocks (75) in 2015, and was second in all three categories (216-15-44) in 2016. He returned to the top rung in all three (366-28-62) in 2017.
• 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 on March 6, 2015, and is now a senior captain.
UC San Diego's schedule has 13 of 27 matches at home for the second straight year ... UC San Diego was picked sixth in the first Big West preseason coaches' poll, with 2017 MPSF champion and national semifinalist Long Beach State the favorite ... For the second year in a row, Tanner Syftestad was one of 15 standouts around the country named to the preseason watch list for the fourth annual Bryan Ivie Award, presented by Off the Block to the best opposite in NCAA Division I-II ... UC San Diego led the MPSF for a second straight year with a program-record nine MPSF All-Academic distinctions in 2017 (seven in 2016), including returners Alec Flowers, Xander Jimenez, Luke McDonald, Milosh Stojcic, Nathan Thalken and Bryan Zhu, with Zhu now a three-time honoree, and Flowers, McDonald and Stojcic repeat selections.
Of the 23 players on UC San Diego's 2018 roster, 20 hail from California, with the lone exceptions being true freshmen Gabe Avillion (State College, PA), Wyatt Harrison (Kilauea, HI) and Macune Gilruth (Nairobi, Kenya) ... UCSD has 13 returners, 11 of whom saw action a season ago with two redshirt freshmen, and 10 newcomers, all true freshmen ... The lone San Diego product is fifth-year senior middle blocker Bryan Zhu (Rancho Bernardo HS).
HEAD COACH KEVIN RING
Kevin Ring begins his 13th season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has an 84-256 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 BEARCATS
McKendree University (0-0, 0-0 MIVA), from Lebanon, Ill., was favored for fifth in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) preseason poll, out of eight teams. Redshirt senior middle blocker Brendan Schmidt is a preseason All-MIVA pick. Like the Tritons, the Bearcats are current members of the NCAA Division II. They were sixth in the MIVA in 2017, going 6-10 in league play and 11-19 overall. McKendree opens its 2018 campaign at second-ranked Big West favorite Long Beach State on Wednesday night, Jan. 3. UCSD will contest four matches in all in 2018 against MIVA foes. Nickie Sanlin is in her fifth season in charge of the Bearcats, having been named to the post in the spring of 2013, for the program's inaugural year of competition in 2014.
UC San Diego and McKendree have never met in men's volleyball. They will face off again on the Bearcats' home court, on Feb. 16.
ABOUT THE TORNADO
King University (0-0, 0-0 CC), located in Bristol, Tenn., is also a member of the NCAA Division II, and competes in the Conference Carolinas. That preseason poll had not yet been released as of Jan. 1. The Tornado went 28-4 overall a year ago and 16-2 in league activity, both of those win totals marking program records. As the regular-season co-champions and No. 2 seed, their campaign was ended by third-seeded Mount Olive in the conference tournament semifinals, 3-1. King's 2018 season begins at UCLA on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Ryan Booher, the Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year for the second time in 2017, begins his ninth year in charge at his alma mater.
UC San Diego and King have never met in men's volleyball.
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UC San Diego heads into a season-long four-match homestand, beginning with its home opener against UC Merced on Thursday, Jan. 11. First serve inside RIMAC Arena is set for 6 p.m.