IRVINE, Calif. - The University of California San Diego served four set points in game two but fell in straight sets to fifth-ranked UC Irvine, 3-0, in Big West Conference men's volleyball action at the Bren Events Center on Thursday night. Set scores were 25-21, 31-29 and 25-18.
With the defeat, UC San Diego dropped to 9-11 overall and 0-3 in the Big West. In winning a fourth straight, UC Irvine improved to 15-5 overall and 2-1 in league play. The Anteaters thus moved into a tie for second place in the Big West standings.
UC San Diego had to play without senior stars Milosh Stojcic and Tanner Syftestad, both unavailable through injury. Starting in place of them, both for the second time this season, were sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht and redshirt junior opposite hitter Luke McDonald, respectively. Walbrecht finished with 30 assists and career highs of eight digs to equal the match high, and four kills. McDonald contributed nine kills and two blocks to equal his bests as a Triton, and a career-high seven digs.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Xander Jimenez produced a team-high 10 kills. He hit a season-best .316 (10-4-19) and added five digs, three assists and a block. UCSD's other outside hitter, Wyatt Harrison, the reigning Big West Freshman of the Week, had nine kills. Sophomore libero Ryan Lew got to six digs and dished out three assists.
After fending off two set points in the second frame with kills by Harrison and Jimenez, UC San Diego led by scores of 26-25, 27-26, 28-27 and 29-28, but could not notch that all-important final tally. A service error and attack error sandwiched around a Matthew Younggren kill, left UCI in command of the contest.
The Tritons grabbed the first two points of the night before a 5-0 run put the 'Eaters up 7-4. It was 14-8 by the first timeout. UCSD got back to as close to within one again at 20-19 through a 3-0 mini-run consisting of a Walbrecht kill and back-to-back UCI hitting errors, but the home side managed the next three points and held on.
The third set featured 12 tie scores and a pair of lead changes. A 5-0 run by UC Irvine that broke that 12th and final 16-16 deadlock, proved to be the difference, as UC San Diego used both of its timeouts during the sequence, and could not get back into it.
UC San Diego and UC Irvine turn right around and complete their home-and-home series in La Jolla on Friday night, March 16. First serve inside RIMAC Arena on North Campus is set for 7 p.m.
Triton Notes: UC San Diego is now 4-6 away from home this season ... Tanner Syftestad missed his first match of 2018, and Milosh Stojcic his second in a row ... The Tritons equaled their season low of 3.0 total team blocks.