TRITONS LOOKING TO STAY PERFECT IN HOME OPENER
The University of California San Diego men's volleyball program plays the first of its 13 home matches for the 2018 campaign this Thursday, Jan. 11, against UC Merced. First serve for UC San Diego's lone competition this week is set for an earlier 6 p.m. inside RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla. The Tritons are 2-0 for the first time in 22 years, since 1996, after defeating a pair of NCAA Division II foes in McKendree and King at last week's Wooden Classic Tournament at UCLA. Thursday's match will mark the season opener for UC Merced, an independent member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the start of a season-long four-match homestand for UC San Diego. It will also be the first of a three-match stretch for the Tritons against University of California opposition, with third-ranked UCLA and Division III UC Santa Cruz following the Bobcats into San Diego on Tuesday, Jan. 16, and Friday, Jan. 19, next week, both at 7 p.m.
All 13 UC San Diego home matches in 2018 will 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. Local media personality Miles Himmel (@mileshimmel) is the primary play-by-play voice. Back again as the primary analyst is 1988 Olympic gold medalist, UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame setter, beach legend and current UC San Diego women's volleyball head coach Ricci Luyties. 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. 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 are $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 continue to 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 began a brand-new era last week with the start of the inaugural year of the Big West Conference. UCSD is an associate member after 25 seasons in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), 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, and remained as such in Monday's first in-season release. It was the first time since 2014 that the Tritons 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. In the first-year VolleyMob Men's Power Rankings, UCSD was the preseason No. 20, and is up to No. 19. The Tritons were No. 24 in OTB's preseason power poll.
UC SAN DIEGO IN THE AVCA POLL
• Jan. 8: RV
• Dec. 7 (Preseason): RV
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego won both of its matches at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament last weekend. The Tritons outlasted McKendree of Lebanon, Ill., and the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), in five sets, on Friday. Tanner Syftestad had a match-high 27 kills on .365 hitting, with true freshman Wyatt Harrison joining him in double figures with 10 kills in his debut, the last two breaking a 13-13 tie in the decisive fifth frame and giving the Tritons the victory. On Saturday, it was a four-set win over King University of Bristol, Tenn., and the Conference Carolinas. Syftestad again led all players with his 22 kills (.356), and sophomore libero Ryan Lew came up with 13 digs. Milosh Stojcic totaled 82 assists for the weekend.
TREMENDOUS FIRST-WEEK AWARDS HAUL FOR SYFTESTAD
On Monday, senior captain Tanner Syftestad was named the first-ever Big West Conference Men's Volleyball Player of the Week following an incredible first weekend during the first-year league's opening. He totaled 49 kills, or a conference-best average of 5.44 per set, while hitting an efficient .361 as an opposite. On Tuesday, Syftestad became the first Triton to be chosen Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II Men's Player of the Week, since Vaun Lennon on April 3, 2012, and just the fourth in program history. He also picked up VolleyMob Player of the Week honorable mention.
WHAT A START!
UC San Diego is 2-0 for the first time since 1996, when it began the season at 6-0. That was 22 years ago, also the uniform number of Tanner Syftestad, who put down an incredible 49 kills in these first two wins. The six teams of the brand-new Big West Conference combined to go 16-1 last week for openers.
UC San Diego is 5-8 in openers under Kevin Ring following last Friday's five-set triumph over McKendree (IL) at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament. 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. Prior to Friday, that victory over Lewis was also the Tritons' last season-opening success away from home.
SYFTESTAD APPROACHING MILESTONE
Tanner Syftestad is looking to become just the sixth player in the history of UC San Diego Men's Volleyball to reach the 1000-kill milestone. He enters Thursday's home opener 10th in the career record book with 872 kills. Syftestad is also up to eighth in attacks (2190), and tied for eighth in aces (62) with Triton great and current Georgia women's head coach Tom Black.
STOJCIC IN TOP 10
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic is No. 7 all-time at UC San Diego with 1862 career assists. He needs 66 to reach George You (1995-96) for a share of the sixth spot (1928). The Redondo Beach native surpassed the 1000 mark at UCLA on Jan. 14, 2017. Stojcic was the lone Triton to start all 27 matches a year ago.
39-Tanner Syftestad (Best of 31 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU; nine 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-Wyatt Harrison (10 on 1/5/18 vs. MU)
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)
6-Ryan Lew (Best of 20 on 1/28/17 vs. HIU)
3-Milosh Stojcic (Best of 11 on 3/11/17 vs. BSU)
1-Xander Jimenez (11 on 3/14/17 vs. CBU)
1-Tanner Syftestad (10 on 1/7/15 at CUI)
1-Nathan Thalken (11 on 1/5/18 vs. MU)
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)
KEVIN RING SEASON OUTLOOK QUOTES
(On the 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."
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.
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.
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 ... The Tritons are 1-0 in four-set matches and 1-0 in five-setters in 2018 ... 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 ... Of those three true freshmen, three made their college debuts in the opening weekend in Bryce Curtis, Thomas DeStefano and Wyatt Harrison ... The lone San Diego product is fifth-year senior middle blocker Bryan Zhu (Rancho Bernardo HS).
HEAD COACH KEVIN RING
Kevin Ring is in his 13th season in charge at his alma mater. The 2009 MPSF Coach of the Year, he has an 86-256 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 BOBCATS
UC Merced (0-0) is an independent member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Bobcats open their 2018 campaign in La Jolla on Thursday. Ai Prachumsri begins his first full season at the helm of his alma mater, having taken over as the interim head coach during the 2017 season, when UC Merced finished a program-best 7-11.
UC San Diego and UC Merced have only met once before in men's volleyball, and that was a 3-0 Triton sweep (25-13, 25-10, 25-11) in La Jolla on April 5, 2014.
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UC San Diego concludes a season-long four-match homestand with a busy three-match week ahead. The Tritons welcome in third-ranked UCLA on Tuesday, Jan. 16, and then UC Santa Cruz on Friday, Jan. 19, and Concordia on Saturday, Jan. 20. First serve for all three contests is set for 7 p.m. inside RIMAC Arena.