HONOLULU - In its first match since March 16, the University of California San Diego lost in straight sets to seventh-ranked University of Hawai'i in Big West Conference men's volleyball action on Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. Set scores were 25-22, 25-17 and 25-19.
In dropping a fourth straight match, UC San Diego is 9-13 overall and 0-5 in the Big West. UH snapped its own four-match losing skid, moving to 14-6 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
UC San Diego was led by senior opposite and tri-captain Tanner Syftestad's match-high 12 kills on .308 (12-4-26) hitting. It marked his return to action after missing the previous two contests due to injury. Seven of his kills came in the second set.
Senior setter Milosh Stojcic, himself only cleared to participate before Wednesday's final practice ahead of the Tritons' Thursday flight, made his return to the court as well, briefly late in the second set. He had missed the last three matches.
A 3-0 mini-run late in the initial frame suddenly gave UC San Diego a two-point edge at 21-19. A Xander Jimenez kill there was followed by back-to-back stuff blocks on Austin Matautia by senior middle blocker Alec Flowers and sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht, starting again in Stojcic's place. The Rainbow Warriors called their second and final timeout, and tallied the next five, however. The Tritons turned away one set point, on Walbrecht's kill, but not the second, as Jimenez hit into a triple block by Matautia, Dalton Solbrig and Rado Parapunov.
The Tritons held an 11-8 advantage approaching the midway point of the second set, after a Syftestad kill, but again were unable to maintain the upper hand. UH rattled off the next four to regain the lead at 12-11. UCSD leveled the score once more at 12-12 on a kill by freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison, but the home side notched the next two points, six of the next seven, to take command of the game.
The third set was mostly all Hawai'i, as it built a 15-7 bulge at the television timeout, and cruised from there. The Tritons saved three match points before Parapunov's 10th kill ended it. Star junior Stijn van Tilburg led UH with 11 kills at a .364 rate.
The trip is a homecoming for Harrison, a native of Kilauea, Hawaii, on the island of Kaua'i. Among the host of family members and friends on hand were his parents and two brothers, who now reside in Santa Cruz. His father, Todd, was a UH volleyball letter winner in 1987 and 1988. Harrison collected four kills.
Walbrecht had 20 assists, four digs, four blocks, one of them solo, and two kills. Flowers led the Tritons with five total blocks, to go along with four kills. Jimenez and Syftestad added six and five digs, respectively.
The Tritons played in front of a season-high crowd of 3298.
UC San Diego and Hawai'i wrap up their two-match series on Saturday night, March 31. First serve is again set for 10 p.m. PT inside the Stan Sheriff Center.