Entering the final two home games of the season, the UC Irvine women’s volleyball team had victory on their minds. The team delivered and the Anteaters ended the home season with a bang, with two consecutive sweeps on Friday and Saturday night at Crawford Court against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.
The first match against Cal State Fullerton started off quite well with two consecutive serving aces by sophomore libero Devon Sutherland in a 3-0 sweep over the Titans, 30-27, 31-29, 30-21.
The first game was a back-and-forth affair that concluded with a game-winning kill by freshman outside hitter McCall Miller, who had an outstanding first game, as well as entire match, with a game high of 18 kills.
In the second game, the Anteaters showed what they were truly made of with a dramatic comeback victory after trailing for nearly the entire game. The Titans (16-10, 6-6 Big West) led the Anteaters by a score of 18-14 when a timely kill by senior middle blocker Trisha White swayed the momentum and brought UCI a point behind the Titans. A big serving ace by Sutherland tied the game at 19.
Following the ace, the Titans once again gained a lead and eventually held a commanding 29-26 lead over the Anteaters. With their backs against the wall the Anteaters put together a gritty all-around team effort, refusing to lose, scoring the next five points and eventually winning, 31-29, after blocking a kill attempt by the Titans.
UCI used the momentum gained from their emotional comeback victory to put the game away. In a frightening moment early in the third game, a player from the visiting Titans came crashing into the scorer’s table while diving for the ball. Luckily, she was not injured and continued to play. In a hard-fought rally, Fullerton showed a lot of heart in staying alive after thwarting several kill attempts by the Anteaters. The Anteaters eventually took the point and proved that on this night, they were not going to be defeated.
An energized Irvine squad went in for the kill and took a five-point lead with a score of 14-9. They continued to stretch this lead behind great performances by sophomore outside hitter Lauren Kellerman, who had a total of 16 kills in the match, freshmen setter Taryn Robertson, freshman outside hitter Alexandra Filkins and Miller. When the game came to a close, the Anteaters proved to be just too much for the visiting Titans, besting Fullerton 30-21.
‘We came together and played really well,’ Kellerman said. ‘Our last home appearance, we lost to Long Beach. So we came out with fire.’
Head Coach Charlie Brande was also impressed with the team’s bench play and their successful turnaround in the second-half of the season.
‘I was really impressed with our intensity especially at the end of the games,’ Brande said. ‘Alexandra Fikins came off the bench and played really well.’
On Saturday night, behind an emotional performance by White, playing in her final home game as an Anteater, UCI swept UC Riverside in three games, 30-23, 30-15 and 30-25.
The Anteaters (11-15, 6-6 Big West) simply out-hustled their conference opponent. It was a fitting end to a brilliant career at home for White.
White made clutch play after clutch play, eventually sealing the victory with an impressive kill at the end of the third and final game.
‘It was a great way to end the last game at home,’ White said. ‘It was a great experience to play at UCI.’
It was also a great birthday present for Coach Brande who was delighted with his team’s performance against the Highlanders (2-24, 0-13 Big West).
‘The group played very well and I am very happy for [White] in her final home game to play so well,’ Brande said. ‘The girls have come a long way this year.’
The women’s team has now won five of their last six games, including a five set thrilling upset of No. 19 ranked Cal Poly on Oct. 28. The Anteaters will conclude their season on the road with games against Pacific on Nov. 16, against Cal State Northridge on Nov. 18 and against Virginia Commonwealth on Nov. 25.
Filed Under: Sports