LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego suffered a sweep at the hands of No. 15 UC Santa Barbara in the Tritons' Big West Conference home opener Friday night at RIMAC Arena. Set scores were 25-20, 25-21 and 25-20.
The match in fact marked the very first Big West Conference competition of any of UC San Diego's athletics teams. The Tritons had dropped a five-set thriller at UC Santa Barbara exactly one week ago on Feb. 23, rallying from a two-set deficit and even earning a match point in the decider. With Friday's defeat, UCSD falls to an even 8-8 overall and 0-2 in the Big West. UCSB improves to 7-5 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Senior opposite hitter Tanner Syftestad led the Tritons again with 16 kills, coming on .433 hitting (16-3-30). He added six digs. Junior Nathan Thalken provided seven kills off the bench at a career-best .583 attack rate (7-0-12). Luke La Mont, like Syftestad a senior captain, contributed four kills and a team-best seven digs in a reserve role. Sophomore libero Ryan Lew got to six digs. Senior Milosh Stojcic (20) and sophomore Connor Walbrecht (10) both reached double figures in assists, while Walbrecht served UC San Diego's lone ace.
The first set featured five tie scores and three lead changes, all in the early going before a 4-0 run by the Gauchos gave them an 8-5 lead. The visitors maintained their edge for the duration from there, getting the night's first triple block by Corey Chavers, Randy DeWeese and Brandon Hopper for a 17-12 advantage.
Game two was tighter as UCSD surrendered the first three points but ultimately used a rousing 5-0 stretch around UC Santa Barbara's first timeout of the night to take a 13-9 lead. That sequence included a beautifully rolled kill by Syftestad around the Gaucho block and down onto the open space on the other side for 10-9, followed by a lengthy rally culminating in an Alec Flowers kill, and a solo stuff by Flowers for 12-9.
UC Santa Barbara got out ahead 7-3 in the third to trigger the Tritons' first timeout. The Gauchos led the entire way after grabbing the first two points. It was a narrow 22-20 margin late, but the visitors tallied the final three points on two Chavers kills around a DeWeese ace.
San Diego native Keenan Sanders, a sophomore middle from Scripps Ranch High School, wound up with a match-high 17 kills for UCSB on .517 hitting (17-2-29). DeWeese produced 28 assists, a match-high 10 digs, six blocks, three kills and an ace.
UC San Diego hosts No. 11 Ball State in non-conference action on Saturday night, March 3. First serve is set for 7 p.m. at RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla. Parking is free. Those unable to attend can tune in for free in high definition on UCSDtritons.tv.
Triton Notes: Tanner Syftestad's 16 kills give him 1121 for his career, fifth in program history ... Syftestad's 30 attacks give him 2734 for his career, also fifth all-time ... Tonight marked Syftestad's 52nd career match in double-figure kills, including 15 of 16 in 2018 ... Milosh Stojcic's 20 assists give him 2347 for his four-year career, fifth all-time ... UCSD had not been swept all of February in six matches ... The single ace by the Tritons was a season low ... UCSD is at .500 for the first time this season after opening with three successive wins ... The match was attended by former national champion UC San Diego women's volleyball head coach (1996-2004), Triton men's head coach (1997-98), and San Diego State playing great Duncan McFarland, whose nephew, Roy McFarland, is a sophomore starter for UC Santa Barbara.