Tritons Fall Twice to No. 9 CSUN, including 3-set sweep on Senior Night

UC San Diego @ Cal State University, Northridge — April 13

Still looking for its first ever Big West Conference win, the UC San Diego men’s volleyball team lost to ninth-ranked California State University, Northridge in four sets resulting in the scores of 22–25, 14–25, 25–19, and 25–17. Although preventing a three-set sweep, the Tritons could not find a way to dig themselves out of an 0–2 hole early on.

The first set lasted a total of 18 tie scores and two lead changes, eventually residing in favor of the Matadors. While even at a score of 22, CSUN capitalized on an attack error by the Tritons, following up with a kill to push the lead to 2. An additional attack error from UCSD lifted CSUN ahead right away.

Moments later, the two California teams dueled off in another competitive set. Ahead by 1 at 5–4, 4 consecutive CSUN scores flipped the script. A strong kill by junior outside Nathan Thalken cut the lead to 2 — however, the Matadors bounced back immediately.

Senior opposite Tanner Syftestad and freshman outside hitter Wyatt Harrison led the Tritons with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Both combined for a total of 24 points and 10 digs on top of 1 assist apiece.

The Tritons played their best ball in the third set recording a team attack percentage of .440 on 14 kills and just 3 errors out of the 25 attempts.

Senior middle blockers Bryan Zhu and Alec Flowers each racked up 7 kills and 2 block assists, while sophomore setter Connor Walbrecht tallied 17 assists, 8 digs, 2 block assists, and a perfect 3-for-3 on kills.

With hopes of using the successful third set to boost the Tritons in a come-from-behind win, UCSD lost momentum at an 11–5 advantage for CSUN midway through the fourth set. Overall the Matadors led in just about every category leaving no doubt of the victor on this night.

UC San Diego vs. Cal State University, Northridge — April 14

Saturday night would be the last time seven senior Tritons played on their beautiful home court of RIMAC Arena in a conference rematch against CSUN. Luke La Mont, Alec Flowers, Drew Sloane, Milosh Stojcic, Bryan Zhu, Tanner Syftestad, and Luke McDonald were all honored prior to the match for all their hard work and dedication to the UCSD program over the last four or five years.

Unfortunately, the Tritons dropped 3 straight sets with scores of 21–25, 18–25, and 21–25.  In the first set, the only 2 tie scores would come at 1–1 and 2–2 before the Matadors took off on a roll to secure the opening. The second set consisted of 0 lead changes as UCSD would fight to stay within 5 points but failed to hang on late.

On his Senior Night, Syftestad collected 5 digs and 11 kills pushing his career total to 1202. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Xander Jimenez placed second behind Syftestad in points scored at 7.5 from 7 kills and 1 block assist. Flowers also contributed 4 kills and 5 digs and Stojcic pushed his career assist total to 2500 with 16 assists the same night.

The Matadors calculated a team attack percentage of .300 or better in every set. Moreso, a team total of 10.5 blocks compared to 4 from the Tritons would explain only one part of the problem for UCSD on Saturday night.

A third set deficit handed UCSD their  18th loss of the year and 10th loss in the Big West Conference. Because all six teams make the conference tournament, UCSD as the sixth seed is set to face third-seeded UC Irvine in the quarterfinal on Thursday, April 19 at 5 p.m. California State University, Long Beach will host inside Walter Pyramid. A win on Thursday night will put UCSD in a position to play second seed University of Hawaii the following day.

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