Photo by: Andy Wilhelm
Junior Nathan Thalken collected three digs, two kills, one block and an ace off the bench.

Tritons Run Into Buzz Saw in Island Rematch at No. 7 UH; Top-Ranked Long Beach State Comes to La Jolla Friday Night


HONOLULU - The University of California San Diego men's volleyball team ran up against a University of Hawai'i side that was quite literally hitting on all cylinders Saturday night in a 3-0 sweep inside the Stan Sheriff Center. Set scores were 25-9, 25-10 and 25-14 in the Big West Conference contest.

UC San Diego dropped to 9-14 overall and 0-6 in the Big West. Hawai'i improved to 15-6 overall and an even 3-3 in conference play, moving into a four-way tie for second in the league standings behind the Tritons' next opponent, top-ranked and undefeated Long Beach State (21-0, 6-0 Big West). UCSD has now lost five straight matches, including Friday night's initial meeting with UH, also in straight sets.

On this night, the Rainbow Warriors hit a blistering .558 (49-6-77), the program's highest mark in 15 years, and easily the best by a Triton opponent in 2018. In fact, the top attack percentage against UCSD this season had been .386. It was the most efficient effort against the Tritons since UC Irvine hit .561 (63-8-98) in a four-set home decision on April 4, 2014.

If that sizzling performance wasn't enough, the Tritons also had to contend with a raucous crowd of 3483, after playing in front of 3298 spectators on Friday night.

UH entirely blitzed UCSD in the first two frames, hitting .591 (15-2-22) and .739 (17-0-23), respectively, with a combined two errors on 45 swings. The home side scored the first four points of the night and was up 8-2 at the Tritons' first timeout, leading from start to finish. Game two had two early ties at 1-1 and 2-2, before UH built a 10-6 advantage at the first UCSD timeout, and notched the next four coming out of it.

After surrendering the first two points of the third set, UC San Diego leveled the score at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4, before taking its first lead of the contest at 5-4 on Tanner Syftestad's lone ace. Following his service error, the Tritons went back up once more at 6-5 on a Syftestad kill. The Rainbow Warriors grabbed the next three. UCSD closed back to within one at 8-7 as sophomore libero Ryan Lew's incredible, sprawling dig ultimately led to a combination block by junior Nathan Thalken and redshirt freshman Vlad Pesic. Still, the hosts went on to complete their second straight sweep.

UCSD had one triple block, by Syftestad, Pesic and freshman outside hitter and Kaua'i product Wyatt Harrison to make it 4-4 in the third. UH ended the match with its only triple stuff. The final eight points of that frame went to the Rainbow Warriors.

Syftestad, the national leader in kills, points and attacks per set, finished with team highs of six kills and five digs. Harrison added four kills, four digs and two blocks in his homecoming with his parents and two brothers among a large contingent on hand.

UC San Diego's home-and-home season series with No. 1 Long Beach State will begin inside RIMAC Arena on North Campus in La Jolla on Friday, April 6. The Tritons then make the short trip north to Long Beach and the Walter Pyramid, site of the first-ever Big West Tournament April 19-21, on Saturday night. First serves are set for 7 p.m.

Triton Notes: UC San Diego is now 4-8 away from home in 2018 and 1-8 in true road contests ... It does not appear that the Tritons had been previously held to single digits in games one through four in the rally-scoring era, since 2011, with sets going to 30 prior to then ... Tanner Syftestad's six kills give him 1179 for his career, fifth in program history ... Syftestad's 23 attacks give him 2878 for his career, fourth all-time ... With one more ace, Syftestad has 85 as a Triton, moving him from third all-time into a tie for second with Jason Spangler (2007-10) ... Tonight marked only the second time this season, having also missed two matches, that Syftestad was held to less than 10 kills ... Milosh Stojcic's 12 assists give him 2439 for his four-year career, fourth all-time ... Stojcic came off the bench for the second straight night after missing the previous three contests due to injury.


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