UC San Diego Takes Perfect Start Into Tough Three-Match Home Week Beginning Tuesday Night With No. 2 UCLA
TRITONS TAKE PERFECT RECORD INTO THREE-MATCH HOME WEEK
The University of California San Diego men's volleyball program concludes a season-long four-match homestand with three non-conference contests in five days this week, all in primetime against fellow unbeatens. The busy week begins with No. 2 UCLA (4-0) on Tuesday, Jan. 16. It ends on the weekend with Division III UC Santa Cruz (6-0) on Friday, Jan. 19, and Division II Concordia (1-0) on Saturday, Jan. 20. First serve on all three nights inside RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla, is set for 7 p.m. The Tritons are 3-0 for the first time in 22 years, since they started 6-0 in 1996.
Though Tuesday's date with UCLA stands to mark the first meeting between the teams as non-conference foes since a 3-0 Bruin sweep in Westwood on Jan. 11, 1992, it will not be their first non-conference matchup, having most recently faced off at the season-opening UC Santa Barbara Asics Invitational on Jan. 4, 2013, with UCLA winning in five sets. Tuesday's affair is UC San Diego's first of five matches against former Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) rivals who have remained in that league. Friday's tilt with UC Santa Cruz will conclude a stretch of three straight contests for the Tritons against University of California opposition. This is their only three-match week of the 2018 campaign.
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, starting one hour prior to first serve. 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 this January with the start of the inaugural year of the Big West Conference. UCSD is an associate member after 25 seasons in the 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 each of the first two in-season releases. 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 moved up to No. 19 on Jan. 8 and No. 18 on Jan. 15. The Tritons were No. 24 in OTB's preseason power poll.
UC SAN DIEGO IN THE AVCA POLL
• Jan. 15: RV
• Jan. 8: RV
• Dec. 7 (Preseason): RV
Ricci Luyties, the UC San Diego women's volleyball head coach, was a star setter and four-time national champion as a Bruin from 1981-84, before an Olympic gold medal in 1988 and Hall of Fame professional beach career. A UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, he was more recently in May of 2017 one of 25 members of the first Southern California Indoor Volleyball Hall of Fame class. Luyties will again serve as the color analyst for Tuesday's meeting between the Tritons and Bruins on UCSDtritons.tv.
LAST TIME OUT
UC San Diego cruised to a sweep over UC Merced in its 2018 home opener last Thursday, Jan. 11, by set scores of 25-12, 25-14 and 25-22. The Tritons rallied from an 18-13 deficit late in the third, scoring the next five points to tie it, with four of those points served by redshirt freshman Vlad Pesic. Pesic was a starter at a middle blocker spot in his college debut, and finished with six kills on .364 hitting (6-2-11) with match highs of two service aces and eight total blocks. Captain Luke La Mont, in his season debut, and Luke McDonald, off the bench, contributed nine kills apiece to share the match high.
WHAT A START!
UC San Diego is 3-0 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 has put down 51 kills in these first three wins. The six teams of the brand-new Big West Conference have combined to go 25-2 thus far. UCSD is one of 11 remaining unbeatens in Division I-II, with four of those sides from the Big West, and two of them heading to RIMAC Arena this week.
EARLY STATISTICAL LEADER
Tanner Syftestad leads all of NCAA Division I-II in kills (5.10) and points (6.05) per set. He is second with 10.10 attacks per set, as the Big West leader in that category as well.
TREMENDOUS FIRST-WEEK AWARDS HAUL FOR SYFTESTAD
On Jan. 8, senior captain Tanner Syftestad was named the first-ever Big West Conference Men's Volleyball Player of the Week following an incredible 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. Syftestad put down match highs of 27 kills in five sets against McKendree on Jan. 5, and 22 more in four against King the next day. On Jan. 9, he 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. Syftestad also picked up VolleyMob Player of the Week honorable mention.
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 this week 10th in the career record book with 874 kills. Syftestad is also up to eighth in attacks (2194), and tied for eighth in aces (62) with Triton great (1993-96), former UCSD women's head coach (2005-09) and current Georgia women's head coach Tom Black.
STOJCIC MOVING UP TOP-10 LIST
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic is No. 7 all-time at UC San Diego with 1887 career assists. He needs 41 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)
UC San Diego is 5-8 in openers under Kevin Ring following the five-set triumph over McKendree (IL) at UCLA's Wooden Classic Tournament on Jan. 5. 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 Jan. 5, that victory over Lewis was also the Tritons' last season-opening success away from home.
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 opened 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 was outstanding a season ago. 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 three-set matches, 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 10 true freshmen, three made their college debuts in the opening weekend in Bryce Curtis, Thomas DeStefano and Wyatt Harrison, with Collin Shannon added to the mix in the Jan. 11 home opener, alongside redshirt freshman Vlad Pesic with the start at a middle blocker spot ... 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 87-256 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 BRUINS
UCLA (4-0, 0-0 MPSF) moved up one spot in the AVCA poll from No. 3 to No. 2 on Monday, and is receiving one of 25 first-place votes. The Bruins are out to a strong start to the season. The Bruins rallied from a two-set deficit to down then-fifth-ranked Big West side UC Irvine at home on national television on Jan. 10. Tuesday will mark their first road foray of 2018. Daenan Gyimah is a sophomore middle blocker who played for his native Canada at last summer's FIVB U21 World Championship in the Czech Republic, and is a fan favorite due to his impressive jumping ability, marked as a 40-plus-inch vertical. John Speraw, the current head coach of the U.S. men's national team, is in his sixth season in charge at his alma mater after 10 at UC Irvine, where he guided the Anteaters to three national championships over a six-year span, including the 2012 crown. He directed Team USA to bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
UCLA leads the all-time series, 61-6, and has taken 11 straight, though UCSD is 6-17 against the Bruins over the last 23 meetings since 2008. The nine matchups prior to the most recent four-set affair in La Jolla last Feb. 25, were 3-0 sweeps. UCSD's third-set triumph that night, put an end to a string of 30 consecutive set defeats against UCLA, since game four of a 3-2 Bruin victory in Santa Barbara on Jan. 4, 2013. The Bruins came out on top three times in 2013, snapping a streak of five straight seasons with at least one Triton victory. UCSD last won 3-1 inside RIMAC Arena on March 30, 2012.
ABOUT THE BANANA SLUGS
UC Santa Cruz (6-0) is ranked No. 8 in the AVCA's preseason Division III poll. The Banana Slugs are coming off back-to-back perfect 3-0 weekends in home tournaments, the Redwood Invitational (Jan. 5-6) and Slug Slam (Jan. 12-13). Their opponents were Menlo College, Ottawa (AZ), Saint Katherine, Cal Lutheran, Illinois Tech and Stevenson. UCSC finished 14-5 a season ago. Paul Leon is the third-year head coach.
UC San Diego leads the all-time series, 16-8. Most of those meetings were while both sides were NCAA Division III members, before the Tritons reclassified to Division II for the 2001 season. Most recently, now a decade ago, UC San Diego was a 3-1 victor in the teams' 2008 opener in La Jolla, 28-30, 30-28, 30-24 and 30-26. In fact, the only other matches between the two since 2001, were a UCSC sweep in Santa Cruz on March 31, 2002, all sets going to extra points (32-30, 32-30, 34-32), and a Triton home sweep (30-17, 30-23, 30-23) on Feb. 24, 2001.
ABOUT THE EAGLES
The Concordia University Irvine men's volleyball program is in its sixth season in existence. The Eagles (1-0) opened with a 3-1 home win over Springfield College last Saturday. They play at No. 7 CSUN on Friday night before heading to La Jolla. The teams will meet again in Irvine on Feb. 9. Concordia went 25-7 in its inaugural year in 2013 and won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) title. The Eagles are now fellow NCAA Division II members, and were receiving votes just outside of Off the Block's final Division II top-five poll a year ago, with UCSD at No. 2. Previously an independent, Concordia is a first-year associate member of the MPSF. Shawn Patchell is in his fifth campaign in charge of the Eagles.
UC San Diego holds a 3-2 edge in the all-time series. The Tritons rallied from two one-set deficits to pull out a five-set thriller in Irvine in the first meeting a year ago, on Jan. 21, for their first win of 2017. They completed the season sweep in four sets in La Jolla on March 17, after dropping the opening frame. Tanner Syftestad went for match highs of 22 and 24 kills in those contests, respectively. UCSD and Concordia met for the very first time in men's volleyball in a home-and-home series in 2015, with the Eagles taking both matchups, 3-1 in Irvine in the season opener for both sides, and then 3-0 in La Jolla. The Tritons earned a straight-set decision in Irvine on March 10, 2016, snapping a lengthy home court win streak for CUI.
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UC San Diego heads to Phoenix, Ariz., next week, to play at No. 12 Grand Canyon on Friday evening, Jan. 26, at 5 p.m. PT, and then Ottawa (AZ) inside GCU's gym the next afternoon on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 1 p.m. PT.