In front of a season-high 2,888 fans at the Bren Events Center on Friday night, No. 10-UCLA Bruins men’s volleyball team outdid the No. 6-UC Irvine Anteaters in five games (25-30, 30-27, 30-28, 19-30, 15-10).
With the loss, UCI goes to 10-11 on the year and 6-8 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.
The crowd viewed an exciting match in which the Anteaters won convincingly in two games to take the match to a deciding game five against Coach John Speraw’s alma mater.
Coach Speraw won national titles at UCLA as both an assistant coach and player; many believed that he would leave UCI to take the UCLA position at the end of this season. However, UCI netted Speraw for another five years and the program seems to have an extremely promising future.
The Anteaters continue to experience some setbacks with a young and inexperienced squad this season that saw four All-Americans graduate from last year’s national championship team.
UCI was again without perhaps its best player and captain Taylor Wilson due to a leg injury.
Junior Jon Stellar more than made up for Wilson’s absence as he recorded a career high of 25 kills, five digs and six block assists. Sophomore Cole Reinholm matched his career high with 14 kills and sniped three service aces. Freshman Cory Yoder added 11 kills, while middle blocker Aaron Harrell recorded a match-high eight blocks and hit .588 on 11 kills in 17 attempts with just one error. Libero Brent Asuka recorded 10 digs for the 11th time this season in which he hit the double-digit mark.
UCI out-blocked UCLA 15-5 at the net, but failure to convert in the fifth game led to its ultimate defeat.
UCI had a slight advantage throughout game one, until a Reinholm kill and Yoder-Harrell block gave them a three-point lead at 20-17. The Anteaters eventually won the game 30-25 on a triple block by Harrell, Yoder and Stellar.
The Anteaters and Bruins were neck-and-neck in game two. UCLA eventually broke out of a 25-25 tie on a pair of kills to take the game 30-27 and even the match up at 1-1.
The third game belonged to Bruin Sean O’Malley, who recorded seven crucial kills and repeatedly helped UCLA respond to every Anteater threat. UCLA took a 2-1 lead with a 30-28 win.
Speraw sent freshman setter Anthony Spittle in game four, which yielded positive results. Spittle recorded 14 assists, and Stellar topped Malley’s performance in game three with eight kills to lead the Anteaters to a dominated 30-19 win. With the match evened up at 2-2, the momentum in their direction, the Anteaters looked to have the advantage heading into game five.
Against all indication, they went cold. They hit .000 percent by failing to convert on six kills attempts. UCLA did what it needed to in order to win and took the fifth deciding game 3-2 for its second victory over the Anteaters this season.