The UCSD men’s volleyball team had a bit of a rough weekend.
Entering the weekend with a 5–17 record, the Tritons looked to upset the stellar No. 3 BYU Cougars in back-to-back matchups on Friday and Saturday night. Although some of the individual sets were close, the Tritons could not do anything to stop the Cougars as they were swept in both matches, dropping to a 5–19 overall record.
To start out the game, the Cougars had their way against the Tritons, quickly going up 4–1, after which they remained in control of the set. UCSD made it close with some quick scores thanks to a kill by sophomore opposite Tanner Syftestad and an attacking error, allowing the team to pull within three points. Afterwards, however, BYU regained control by scoring in bunches and then stormed to a decisive 25–18 set victory.
The Tritons showed no signs of backing down, however, and the team came out on fire in the second set, largely due to three kills by Syftestad which allowed the team to take a 10–6 lead early on. UCSD held the lead up until a kill by BYU sophomore middle blocker Price Jarman tied the game, but Syftestad responded with another kill to put the Tritons back on top, giving UCSD the lead again with a score of 17–16. From then on, the game became a back-and-forth affair, requiring the set to go into extra points, where the Cougars eventually squeaked by with a 26–24 victory.
With what would become the final set of the night, the Cougars appeared to have figured out the Tritons’ superpowers and built up to a 12–3 lead early in the set. But, just when it looked like the Cougars would run away with the set and the match, the Tritons proved to still had some fight left in them. Scoring in chunks for the remainder of the match, they were able to put themselves right back into the game, thanks to some multi-point scoring runs that would put them within reach with a score of 20–22. Unfortunately, the Cougars still had just enough left in the tank to close out the set with a 25–21 victory.
Even with the Tritons battling hard, the Cougars definitely had the upper hand throughout the match, leading in attack percentage in every set and an overall attack percentage of .289 (42-14-97) compared to the Tritons’ .219 (39-18-96). Junior outside hitter Ian Colbert and Syftestad led the team with 11 kills apiece, while senior outside hitter Kirill Rudenko had a team high 11 digs.
“We battled hard and really competed. We had some opportunities, especially in that second set,” UCSD Head Coach Kevin Ring told the athletics department. “We felt like we left some plays on the court.”
The very next night, the Tritons were given another chance to take down the Cougars, but unfortunately for the Tritons, the games weren’t any closer.
From the very beginning, the Cougars got out to a hot start, nearly pushing their lead to double digits after pulling ahead 16–8 halfway through the set. While the Tritons turned up the intensity, outscoring the Cougars 11–9 for the rest of the set, the Cougars were still able to pull away with a 25–19 victory.
In a nice change of pace, the Tritons were able to hang in there with the Cougars to start the second set, preventing BYU from dominating the scoreboard. But, after tying the score 6–6, the Tritons couldn’t build on any of their momentum and allowed the Cougars to go on countless scoring runs, after which the Cougars wound up demolishing the Tritons 25–13.
Just like the night before, the Tritons would not concede the game without a fight. Once again stopping the Cougars from speeding ahead with an early lead, the Tritons fought tooth and nail with the Cougars in a back-and-forth duel for just about the entire set. A late kill by Colbert cut their deficit to two in a 16–18 match, but the Cougars would not allow them to get any closer. However, even when the Cougars began to pull away, their lead was no greater than six points, as the Tritons fought hard the entire match, despite dropping to the Cougars one last time 21–25.
Once again, the Tritons were outplayed by the Cougars, amassing a meager team attack percentage of .198 (30-13-86) compared to BYU’s excellent .402 (46-13-82). Still, Colbert had a strong showing of 12 kills off an attack percentage of .379 (12-1-29), while freshman setter Ryan Blaich led the team in assists and digs with 13 and six respectively.
With the losses, the Tritons fell to 5–19 overall on the season and 0–18 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, whereas the Cougars rose to 19–3 overall and 15–3 in MPSF play. The Tritons will embark on their final road trip of the season with their game against California Baptist on Friday, April 1.