The UC Irvine women’s volleyball team opened Big West Conference play with a convincing win over UC Riverside on Sept. 20 at Crawford Court. The Anteaters won in four sets (30-21, 30-21, 25-30, 30-27).
Unfortunately, the No. 15 ranked University of San Diego dropped UCI to 11-4 on Friday with 3-1 loss.
The Lady Anteaters are off to one of their best starts in Coach Charlie Brande’s eight seasons at UCI.
The hot start, however, should come as no surprise. After losing their first six matches of the 2006 season, the Anteaters closed out Big West play by winning nine of their last 12 matches.
UCI has gotten off to a great start with victories over the likes of Montana, Gonzaga, Southern Miss and William & Mary. Unlike last season, the Anteaters began the season with six consecutive wins and only conceded four sets in that span.
The Big West opener showcased the talent of this year’s team. Junior Devon Sutherland ended the match with a career-high 30 digs. Sophomore setter Taryn Robertson set a career high in assists with a whopping 62.
Junior Lauren Kellerman turned in a solid performance with 17 kills and 12 digs, her fifth double-double of the season.
Senior Kristen Kelly hit an impressive .455 for the match, with 11 kills on 22 attempts.
The Anteaters also got an extremely solid effort from freshman Kari Pestolesi, who led the Anteaters with 18 kills.
The mix of experience and inspiring play from a freshman was the story for the Anteaters and was just too much for Riverside to handle.
In set one, UC Riverside kept it close the entire game. It capitalized on a few Anteater errors that did not allow the Anteaters to establish a flow.
However, once the score reached 22-20 in favor of UCI, the Anteaters scored six consecutive points en route to a 30-21 victory.
UCI came out firing in set two, quickly establishing a 10-5 lead. The Anteaters led by as much as eight points in the game, and saw two great plays by Robertson and Kelly that eventually lead to another 30-21 win.
Riverside picked up its game in set three. It took an early lead and was successful in diffusing a few Anteaters’ surges. UCI lost the set 25-30.
In the fourth set, Brande went to his depth for some help. He found it in the form of sophomore Alexandra Filkins.
She came off the bench and provided the kill that put UCI up to 20-15. She finished with six kills, three digs and three blocks. UCI went on to win the set 30-27.
UCI’s fortunes expired once they encountered the Torero’s the next day. The Anteaters were held to a .152 average as five Torero’s earned double digit kills.
UCI’s early 10-7 lead in game three quickly escaped them once the Tosero’s rallied to build a 16-9 lead in game four.
This Anteater team has the experience and drive that has been missing in past. Let’s hope to see it carry its success into the tough Big West play.
The confidence and experience that has been established with its encouraging start should certainly suffice for continued success.
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