Junior setter Ashlie Hain sparked the Anteaters with 47 assists and the UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team earned its third career win over Pacific in straight sets, 30-28, 30-26 and 30-27 on Sept. 27 at Crawford Court in Big West Conference play.
Before the game, both teams had frenzied warm-ups resulting in many of the players being drenched in sweat.
The first game was marked by a flurry of mistakes by Pacific, who had eight errors. The Anteaters went wire to wire with the lead and took charge with junior outside hitter Kelly Wing serving.
Wing led Irvine with 13 kills and said UCI’s primary goal was stopping Pacific’s biggest weapon, middle blocker Jennifer Joines.
‘Jennifer Joines is one of their big players and we concentrated on getting in front of her and blocking her shots,’ Wing said. ‘I think we all worked really hard and we kept battling with them and we weren’t going to let them win.’
Irvine started the second game with a renewed sense of determination.
Again, the Anteaters led the entire game. Their play this time was accentuated by sophomore outside hitter Terbrie Taylor, who put UCI up late 22-18 with a couple of solid kills.
Hain also contributed with many of her assists coming in the second game, which demoralized Pacific.
Irvine maintained the lead even without junior middle blocker Dana Kurzbard who was icing her right shoulder for a brief period. Kurzbard later returned and contributed two kills in the second game.
The Anteaters capitalized on more Pacific miscommunications and triumphed 30-26 in the second game.
Head Coach Charlie Brande agreed with Wing’s assessment in the importance to contain Joines.
‘They have a big dominant hitter in the front row and we really worked in trying to neutralize that,’ Brande said. ‘Pacific is very scrappy and very well-coached. So we knew that we were going to have to make adjustments as the match went on.’
After halftime, both teams entered the court with intense looks on their faces. With 2-0, Pacific jumped out to its first lead of the entire match.
But the Anteaters quickly tied it at 2-2. Pacific unraveled and fell behind 10-4, but errant shots by Anteater hitters invited Pacific back into the game and eventually helped them take the lead at 15-14.
Brande called timeout at that point to regroup his team.
‘We wanted to stay calm and stay focused throughout [the game]. There were some times we weren’t focused and it cost us,’ Brande said, referring to the temporary letdown.
Kurzbard would not let the Anteaters trail for very long. She blocked several Pacific shots and swung the momentum back on Irvine’s side.
With Pacific frantically trying to stay in the game, junior middle blocker Sami Cash put the Tigers away for good with one of her 11 kills. Cash’s powerful shot forced Pacific outside hitter Stevie Mussie to dig the ball out of bounds, giving the match to UCI.
With the win, the Anteaters improved to 13-3 overall and 4-0 in conference play. The 20th-ranked Tigers tumbled to 7-4 overall and 2-2 in conference in Big West action.
Next week will prove to be a tough test for UCI, when they travel to Idaho State, Utah State and also face perennial powerhouse Long Beach State. But during the game, Brande wanted to celebrate the win over Pacific.
‘We’re very happy about our win over University of Pacific. They have been an excellent program for a number of years and on Monday morning we’ll start worrying about Idaho,’ Brande remarked. Wing agreed and said preparing for the road trip will be like ‘every other game and we’re going to go out there and fight with them.’