It’s game three and the UC Irvine Men’s Volleyball team were up two games in Irvine’s own Crawford Court on April 17. On this night, Cal State Northridge refused to go home empty-handed against Irvine and crushed the Anteaters in game three, 30-21.
In the stands, Matador fans cheered in relief and joy. Irvine can only taste their prior opportunity to win against Northridge three games in a row.
After losing game three, the Anteaters fired back in game four and upset the fifth-ranked Matadors on senior night, 30-27, 30-25, 21-30, 30-27.
‘I think we weren’t playing at full strength. We had a new lineup [tonight] and Irvine was just playing better than we were,’ said CSUN Head Coach Jeff Campbell.
Campbell shrugged off the loss adding, ‘We are already a seed in the playoffs. Irvine deserved this win.’
The ninth-ranked Anteaters started off the night in style, playing their first two games against Northridge with agility, strength and aggression.
‘With the exception of game three, they played well tonight,’ said UCI Head Coach John Speraw. ‘The first two games were
some of our better games of the season and at game four they showed tenacity when it mattered.’
Last Saturday wasn’t only a night of great and exciting volleyball but also the last home game of the season, not to mention the last
home game ever for the seniors of the team: Spencer Bemus, Jimmy
Pelzel, Mike Garcia, Greg Ford, B.J. Fell and Kyle Weichert.
The seniors were honored with a formal goodbye, in front of an audience that included their family, friends, as well as their vast amount of fans.
‘It’s been an honor to play here for four years. Tonight was a good game and we’ve had a lot of support,’ said senior captain and All-American Jimmy Pelzel.
Pelzel went out against Northridge recording 15 kills as the suspense was high and a win extremely important for the Anteaters.
When Irvine was chasing Northridge while down 12-11, Pelzel blasted a huge kill that practically blew the roof off of Crawford Hall and tied the game 12-12.
As Pelzel recorded kills against Northridge fellow senior Spencer Bemus totaled a season-high 20 kills in the match.
Bemus’ proficiency and consistency with his kills helped him lead the team to victory.
‘This [win] felt really good coming. We just focused more on opening the court up,’ Bemus said. ‘Today was more of a team effort than anything.’
Adding to Bemus’ season-high kills mark, senior Kyle Weichert attained a record high of 374 block assists, breaking the UCI all-time mark.
‘It’s just hard to put into words what I feel. I’m so glad that we won,’ Weichert said. ‘We’ve been struggling all season and tonight was the time to just step up.’
And stepping up is exactly what the Anteaters did as they beat the Northridge Matadors with a win to improve to 14-17 overall.
Next up, the Anteaters will travel to top-ranked BYU April 24 for a first-round Moutain Pacific Sports Federation championship match.