The streak stops at 49 — and UC San Diego did it with a little flare for the dramatic.
Opposite Tanner Syfestad had a match-high 26 kills as UC San Diego rallied to beat USC 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-23 on Saturday in Los Angeles to snap its 49-match conference losing streak.
The Tritons (4-5, 1-4 MPSF) had been winless in the MPSF for the last two seasons with the team’s last conference victory coming in 2014 against now-disbanded Pacific. Despite the conference losing steak, UC San Diego entered having won three consecutive non-conference matches and climbing to No. 5 in the recent Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Division II National Coaches Poll.
“You are really proud of the guys and the fight in us tonight. It’s a great victory for sure,” UC San Diego coach Kevin Ring said in an interview with Off the Block. “We talked about it in our pregame that we belong in this league. We can compete in this league, and we can win in this league. We proved that tonight.”
This was the fifth consecutive match that Syfestad finished with more than 20 kills. The junior also hit .460 and in the final game had nine kills to help the Tritons overcome a five-point deficit to secure their first conference victory.
“Tanner is going after it,” Ring said. “You see his efficiency is really pretty high right now for the most part because he’s making some really big plays for us and then also making smart plays.”
Setter Milosh Stojcic guided the UC San Diego offense to out-hit USC .328 to .225, including the Tritons having a match-best .500 attack percentage in the second game.
Stojcic also was one of the four Tritons to end the match with at least five blocks as UC San Diego held USC (3-8, 2-6 MPSF) to less than a .200 attack percentage in the final two games. Freshman outside attacker Xander Jimenez led all players seven blocks, while middle attacker Bryan Zhu added six blocks.
All-MPSF outside attacker Lucas Yoder in the loss had a team-high 20 kills. In addition, recent junior college transfer outside attacker Gianluca Grasso contributed 14 kills and six blocks.
This is the first time since 2013 that the Tritons have defeated the Trojans and the second time they have accomplished the feat this decade.