IRVINE, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team was unable to turn a two-set advantage into a win on Friday night at CU Arena, falling in five to Concordia University Irvine. Set scores were 23-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-23 and 15-13.
A third straight loss following a first-ever 7-2 start to the season has UC San Diego at 7-5. Concordia improved to an even 4-4 in earning the split of the season series between the NCAA Division II rivals. The Tritons had won the last four meetings, including a come-from-behind 3-1 victory in La Jolla back on Jan. 20.
Senior opposite and captain Tanner Syftestad continued to produce remarkable offensive numbers, as the national leader in kills, points and attacks per set put down 27 more kills to equal his season high, on a career-high 57 total attacks. He added 11 digs for a double-double. Fellow senior Milosh Stojcic turned in a double-double of his own for the second night in a row, with 51 assists and a career-best 13 digs.
True freshman libero Thomas DeStefano was a third Triton in double-figure digs, with a season-high 10.
The Tritons pulled out two close sets to go up 2-0. They were down 21-18 late in the first before a 4-0 run turned their fortunes around. Concordia scored the first four points in the second and led 10-6, but seven straight points around a timeout suddenly put UCSD on top, 13-10. The Eagles still held edges of 21-20 and even 23-22, but coming out of a timeout, a Syftestad kill and combination block by Wyatt Harrison and Bryan Zhu (San Diego/Rancho Bernardo HS) gave the Tritons set point. At 24-24, a bad set and stuff block by Zhu and Luke La Mont ended the frame.
The hosts again came out clicking in the third, quickly ahead 5-1. The next four points went to the Tritons, however. A four-point run later turned a 12-10 Triton edge into a 14-12 Eagle lead, with UCSD unable to come even again from there. A triple block by Raymond Barsemian, Taylor Falduti and Jonathan Predney made it 2-1 in sets.
Concordia looked in command of game four at 17-11 after three points in a row, but UC San Diego actually came back to lead 20-19, and as late still as 23-22, before two kills and a Barsemian ace forced a decider.
Again, the home side appeared to be in control at 8-4 at the side change, but the Tritons would not go away, levelling matters at 12-12 on a Syftestad kill. Syftestad's 27th kill gave UCSD a 13-12 edge, but a handling error, Falduti ace off the top of the net, and solo block by Hunter Howell, completed the comeback for Concordia.
"It was a disappointing loss tonight," said UC San Diego head coach Kevin Ring. "We were up 2-0, not always playing great volleyball, but we were playing big in the big moments. We had some chances in the third set. We got down early, but came back. Even though we were playing from behind, I was real proud of the team with how hard we fought. It comes down to executing. I think our head was in the game. We just didn't give ourselves enough quality swings, either because of the dig or the pass, the set. Concordia did a much better job of that tonight. It's hard to be down 2-0 and come back and win in five sets, so credit Concordia, but I definitely believe there was a lot more that we could have done on our side of the net, to turn the match in our favor.
"We've lost three in a row. It's disappointing. We have stretches of very good volleyball, but too many stretches where we're struggling to score points or earn sideouts. Every team we play from here on out, are good teams, and it's a big challenge for us. I'm fully expecting our guys to keep working and rise to the occasion. Our goal is still out there in front of us. We have a chance to still make this a pretty special season, but we have work to do."
UC San Diego continues a season-long four-match road stretch next week, traveling to the Midwest to take on two more top Division II foes in McKendree on Friday, Feb. 16, and Lindenwood on Saturday, Feb. 17.
Triton Notes: Tanner Syftestad's 27 kills give him 1043 for his career, sixth in program history and one behind Carl Eberts for fifth ... Syftestad's 57 attacks give him 2552 for his career, moving him up from sixth to fifth all-time, ahead of Eberts (2500) ... Syftestad's two aces give him 76, fourth all-time ... Syftestad has 48 career matches in double-figure kills, including 11 of 12 thus far in 2018, and 13 now with 20-plus ... Syftestad had 135 kills in seven matches and 28 sets in his career against Concordia, or an average of 4.82 per set, with four straight 22-plus-kill outputs ... Milosh Stojcic's 51 assists give him 2230 for his four-year career, fifth all-time ... The performance marked Stojcic's third career 50-plus-assist effort.