UC San Diego vs. Long Beach State
The UC San Diego men’s volleyball team took on California State University, Long Beach in back-to-back matches this weekend, one on the road and one at home. While still looking for their first Big West Conference victory, the Tritons dropped six straight sets to the currently number one-ranked team in the nation.
Game 1 — Friday, April 6
With set scores of 22–25, 19–25, and 17–25, UCSD lost Friday night’s home match 0–3 amidst a crowd of 600.
UCSD held its own against a dominating 49ers lineup gaining the lead early on in the first set. The Tritons remained ahead until the 13th point when CSULB evened the score and the superior team continued to fluctuate. In 9 tie scores and 3 lead changes, CSULB buckled down to gain advantage moving forward.
The first set was the closest the Tritons would come to beating the 49ers. UCSD accumulated a .308 team attack percentage which was no problem for CSULB, which would go on to average .526. Although tallying 14 kills compared to just 11 from the opponent, 6 UCSD errors contributed to the 3-point deficit.
Redshirt junior opposite Luke McDonald recorded a team high of 10 kills on the night in place of senior opposite hitter Tanner Syftestad (out with illness), 5 of which came in the first set. McDonald also contributed 2 assists, 2 digs, and 2 block assists to calculate a total of 11 points.
Another back-and-forth second set concluded in favor of CSULB. After executing on point 15, the 49ers went on a roll scoring the next 5 points and maintained until capitalizing on set point.
Freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison added 7 kills, 3 digs, and 1 block assist for 7.5 points — the second highest scorer for UCSD. Junior outside hitter Nathan Thalken matched Harrison’s 7 kills with 4 assists and 7 digs. In addition, senior setter Milosh Stojcic finished with 20 assists and 4 digs.
In CSULB’s worst set performance of the night, in regards to a .091 attack percentage, the Tritons failed to find ways to take advantage. Overall, the 49ers led in team blocks 9 to 5, digs 27 to 26, and blocks 18 to 9 to help extend their undefeated conference record, 7–0.
Game 2 — Saturday, April 7
The following day, UCSD traveled a few hours up the coast to face CSULB in 49er territory at Walter Pyramid arena. Unfortunately, the Tritons fell another three sets in a row with scores of 21–25, 18–25, and 13–25.
The Tritons held a lead as large as 8–4 in the first set, forcing an immediate CSULB timeout after a killer McDonald service ace. McDonald achieved another successful first set gathering 3 of his 5 kills. Moments later, Thalken’s service ace improved the Triton lead to 15–10. However, a strong 49er roster bounced back, quickly tying the score at 18 and only thriving from there.
Three different Tritons, McDonald, Thalken and freshman opposite Collin Shannon, tied with 6 points and 5 kills apiece. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Xander Jimenez recorded a team high of 6 kills on top of 5 digs and 1 block assist. Sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht collected 11 assists and 4 digs as well.
CSULB led all sets in attack percentage by a decent margin (.462–.238, .542–.233, .348–.071). The remaining two sets held favor of the enemy as the Tritons were unable to find ways around the strong 49er offense. The lead slipped away early, leaving little to no chance to catch up to a solid CSULB squad.
The Tritons will play California State University, Northridge next weekend for the last two regular season matches of the 2018 campaign and celebrate Senior Night at the same time. Furthermore, all six teams will make the Big West Conference Tournament beginning Thursday, April 19. As the No. 6 seed, UCSD will play the No. 3 seed, to be determined as of now.