UC Irvine 3
After a disappointing loss last Saturday to No. 5-ranked Pepperdine University, the second-ranked UC Irvine men’s volleyball team (9-1) looked to get back on track and show the nation why it is one of the best, if not the best, teams in the nation.
The Anteaters did just that with a dominating 3-0 nonconference victory against the Princeton Tigers (0-2) on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at Crawford Hall.
Princeton came out strong in game one, keeping it neck-and-neck throughout most of the game. With the score tied at 18-18, senior opposite Matt Webber stepped up to serve and sniped in his team-leading 16th ace of the season to make it 19-18.
However, Princeton fought right back to gain the first multiple-point lead of the game, 21-19. Held back by seven service errors, UCI failed to get into a groove until sophomore outside hitter Taylor Wilson had a few impressive kills to force the Tigers to call a timeout, trailing 27-24.
The Anteaters never looked back and Webber made sure of this with a punishing kill, his seventh of the game, to put UCI up 28-25. The Tigers could not keep up with the superior talent of UCI and the first game went to the Anteaters 30-26.
The rest of the game was a different story. The Anteaters came out and were just as Lloyd Banks described in the intro song, ‘On Fire!’ The game was tied 5-5 when senior outside hitter Jayson Jablonsky went to work.
Recording consecutive blocks and kills, Jablonsky rallied his team to a 15-10 lead. Jablonsky then powered his 97th career ace to force the Tigers to call a timeout with the score at 19-13.
With that ace, Jayson added his name to yet another UCI record book as the new ace leader in UCI history. UCI cruised to a 30-18 win in game two.
There were fewer unforced errors and stronger play from Wilson and senior setter Brian Thornton. Wilson came through with four big kills in game two, and Thornton recorded 25 assists in the first two games.
With the dominance seen in game two, Head Coach John Speraw brought in reserves for game three and gave the crowd a glimpse of the future. The game began with two quick kills each from Wilson and Webber, and UCI got out to a quick 2-0 lead.
The Tigers tied the score back up at 5-5. The leads went back and forth until Princeton’s Peter Eichler took a nasty fall on the court.
With the younger guys taking over and eager for action, UCI exploded to a 20-11 lead and went on to win the game 30-18. Sophomore setter Ryan Ammerman ended the game with 15 assists and three digs and junior middle blocker Mike Ortiz provided two solid kills.
When asked about the future of the volleyball program, Speraw responded, ‘I’m trying real hard to focus on this year. I think we’re really good for the future with Ammerman and the setting position in general. I think Anthony Spittle, who’s red-shirting this year, is doing a good job, so I think the future looks good for our setting position. But you know what? Wilson’s doing a nice job. And Cole Reinholm came in and did well. So those guys are going to be able to contribute next year as well, and it was good. A good opportunity for those guys.’
Webber felt that the team is in great hands with the young talent it has now. ‘Wow. I’m so pumped. These young guys are unreal. I’m really looking forward to coming back and watching these guys play.’
The Anteaters return home for their next three games and will next take on Stanford University on Friday, Feb. 9 in the Bren Events Center at 7 p.m.
The Anteaters have already played Stanford once this season, easily defeating the Cardinal in three sets in January.
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