On Friday evening, UC San Diego hosted its first ever Big West Conference event since the institution’s confirmation to join Division I back in November. Although the rest of the athletic teams will not compete in the Big West until 2020, the men’s volleyball team’s prior Division-I standing allowed a smoother transition and immediate participation in the 2018 season.
Despite the university’s excitement toward the conference opener, UCSD lost in 3 sets to 15th-ranked UC Santa Barbara by scores of 20–25, 21–25, and 20–25. The sweep forced the Tritons to a 0–2 start in the Big West after dropping an extremely close, 5-set match to the Gauchos just one week ago.
Tanner Syftestad, senior captain and opposite hitter, produced 16 kills in 30 attempts to accumulate a team-high of 16 points, as well as 6 digs on the side. Fellow senior setter Milosh Stojcic recorded 20 assists in addition to his 5 digs.
The Tritons led in kills and attempts in the first 2 sets, but 13 combined errors negatively impacted attack percentages of .188 and .235 compared to UCSB’s .269 and .250, respectively.
Sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht listed 10 assists, 3 digs, 2 block assists, and the only service ace for the Tritons of the night. Junior outside hitter Nathan Thalken followed behind Syftestad with 7 kills in 12 attempts and 1 block assist for a total of 7.5 points.
Overall, UCSB prevailed in multiple categories including team blocks, assists, service aces, and kills, contributing to their defeat over the Tritons. UCSB closed the door efficiently in the third set, controlling the lead early on,with zero tied scores and zero lead changes.
February was a rough month for the squad as it lost 5 of 6 games, 4 of which came in a row. The Tritons look to improve their record with the fresh start of a new month and the beginning of conference play.
UC San Diego vs. Ball State—La Jolla, CA
In a non-conference matchup on Saturday evening, UCSD lost its third match in a row, collapsing to No. 11 Ball State University in three straight sets. All set scores came within 3 points — 23–25, 22–25, and 22–25— in which the Tritons could not seem to hang on.
The first set was by far the most competitive, consisting of 15 tie scores and five lead changes. Each team continued to rebuttal until the score lay at 16–14, UCSD with the advantage. A promising 2-point lead quickly lost momentum as the Cardinals answered back to even the score at 19. Moments later, BSU acquired the edge and never looked back, completing the set-win on a service error by the Tritons.
Freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison and Syftestad both documented a team high of 12 kills. Syftestad added 4 digs, and 3 block assists to compile 13.5 total points for the night.
In a second set filled with 7 tie scores, the Tritons failed to gain rhythm. Statistically, UCSD played its best ball in the third set, performing an attack percentage of .357 with only 3 errors. However, a stunning BSU attack percentage of .407 diminished any hope for the Tritons to push the match to a fourth set.
Sophomore libero Ryan Lew collected 11 digs while Stojcic tallied 35 assists in 72 attempts. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter, Xander Jimenez also contributed 6 kills and 3 digs.
Another tally in the loss column pushes the Tritons to an overall 8–9. With hopes of snapping a rough losing streak in the midst of the 2018 campaign, UCSD will face the University of Southern California on Wednesday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in RIMAC arena.