Halfway through their regular season, UCI has won the first three of a five-match home stand to improve their standing to 10-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big West Conference.
The UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team defeated Utah State (3-9, 0-5) 30-16, 30-26, 26-30, 30-23 on Saturday night in front of 368 fans at Crawford Court.
However, UCI’s overall good team play was again mired by signs of inconsistent execution and difficulty closing out matches.
‘We’re still not as conscious of ball control as we need to be,’ said UCI Head Coach Charlie Brande.
Senior outside hitter Kelly Wing led all players with 19 kills and also had five service aces against the scrappy Aggies to become UCI’s all-time leader in service aces with 145. The previous record was held by Gina Elchuck who had 142.
UCI caught Utah State off guard from the outset and dominated the first game behind sophomore outside hitter Trisha White’s five kills.
From there, the match leveled out with more digging and hustling on both sides.
The Anteaters went into the locker room up 2-0 before losing the third game and winning the fourth.
The crowd was brought to silence when senior middle blocker Sami Cash stayed on the floor for several minutes in the fourth game with a tweaked ankle, but she was able to walk off the injury without missing any play.
‘It’s not that serious,’ said Cash, who wears ankle braces and is expected to be able to play against Long Beach State next week.
‘We’ve been playing harder and good things happen when we play hard,’ said Brande, whose team won the battle at the net with 13 blocks compared to the 8.0 for the Aggies.
‘There’s a lot of ups and downs that we go through,’ said junior middle blocker Amanda Vazquez. ‘We can play well when we get close and we work as a team.’
White, junior libero Keegan Featherstone and senior setter Ashlie Hain led a backline that out-dug the opposition, 66-56.
Utah State hit only 0.125 in the first two games and 0.094 for the game compared to a 0.293 clip for UCI.
A bleeding nose toward the end of the match bothered Utah State freshman Carolyn Forbush, on the the Aggies’ leading hitters. Forbush collected 11 kills, all in the first three games, but also had ten errors including four in the deciding game.
‘The conference is up for grabs,’ Vazquez said.
UCI finished the first half of conference play this Thursday against 23rd-ranked Long Beach State. Brande believes the success of nearby conference foe and perennial powerhouse Long Beach State is good for his team.
CSULB hosted one of four NCAA regional finals last year and will host the national championships this year.
Brande definitely would like to host a sub-regional this year if UCI earns an NCAA tournament bid. The Department of Athletics will assess how strong of a chance UCI has to earn a sub-regional bid.
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