UCSD men’s volleyball paves way into Big West conference play

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SAN DIEGO -- A new era begins Friday for the UCSD men's volleyball team as they open their inaugural season of Big West conference play.

The Tritons accepted an invitation to the Division I conference in November but will have to wait four years until their teams can compete as part of a reclassification period. The only exception is men's volleyball.

"It means that we have a chance to prove ourselves," said Tanner Syftestad, senior opposite hitter. "We have to show that UCSD belongs in the Big West conference first and foremost."

This marks the first year the Big West conference will sponsor men's volleyball. The Tritons join five other teams in the conference and they'll play as an associate member meaning they still compete as a Division II program as the school transitions into full Division I status.

"It doesn't change who we are, who we compete against or how we train," said head coach Kevin Ring. "When we go compete, it's team A against team B. The team that plays the best that night wins."

The Tritons previously played in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and will face many of the same teams including UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and others.

"All the Big West teams are historically very good teams," said Syftestad. "They've made MPSF playoffs quite a bit. So we expect really tough competition. We don't expect anybody to take their foot off the gas just because it's a new conference or anything."

The team becomes eligible to compete for a national championship right away and will count on senior leadership and experience to hit that mark.

"We've all been starters or guys off the bench for four years so having that experience of playing these other teams in years past really helps us lead the freshman, " said Luke Lamont, senior outside hitter.

In addition to leading the way into the Big West conference era, the Tritons also carry the men's volleyball banner for San Diego county.

"We're playing some of the best teams night in and night out, certainly on the road and in our gym so we really hope the San Diego community comes out and supports us in watching some really high-level volleyball."

You can see the Tritons in action at Rimac Arena January 11.