UC Irvine 3 Long Beach St. 2
The Black and Blue rivalry between Long Beach State and UC Irvine was intensified as both teams went into Friday night’s match ranked in the top 25 and looking for sole possession atop the Big West.
The ‘Eaters battled back from a 0-1 hole to take the match three sets to two. UC Irvine received huge contributions from junior Kari Pestolesi, who led the team with 23 kills and 19 digs, and Juliane Piggott, who notched 19 kills and 8 digs.
UC Irvine seemed to be headed for a first set victory when the Anteaters took a late 24-21 lead. However, a late surge by the 49ers spoiled the ‘Eaters’ plan as they tied the set at 27-27. The Anteaters were unable to recover and fell 27-29.
“After being up in game one against Long Beach and letting them win 29-27, we could have easily just let go at that point,” Head Coach Paul Weishoff said. “But, we played great the rest of the match.”
After dropping the first set, UCI’s determination would guide them to victory, taking three out of the next four sets. The Anteaters were able to bounce back and win set two, 25-23 and set three 25-17. After being down 0-1, UC Irvine rallied to take a 2-1 advantage on their arch-rival.
UCI was taken to a fifth set after the 49ers rallied back in the fourth set with a 25-18 victory.
In the fifth and final set, both teams came out with a sense of urgency as they split the first eight points. Tied at 4-4, the ’Eaters went on a 5-0 run, which gave them a 9-4 lead. However, Long Beach did not fold and came back to tie the decisive set at 12-12. The Anteaters did not seem rattled by Long Beach’s run, as they took three out of the next four points to end the set at 15-13 and the match at 3-2.
“It was kind of ugly at the end, but we did not back down,” Weishoff said. “We stayed with it and never gave up.”
UC Irvine 3 UC Riverside 0
After a tough victory against Long Beach State, the Anteaters set their sights on UC Riverside. The ‘Eaters did not fail to deliver, bringing the brooms with them and sweeping the Highlanders back to Riverside three sets to none.
UC Irvine was led by a collective effort with eight different players recording two or more kills.
“Our middle blockers played well and overall it was a good team effort,” Coach Paula Weishoff said.
UCI’s stingy defense kept the Highlanders frustrated all night, holding them to a combined .166 hitting percentage throughout the three sets.
UCI completely dominated the first set, converting .471 of their hitting opportunities. The ’Eaters were able to jump out to a commanding 7-3 lead due to kills by four different Anteaters. The Highlanders battled back, taking the next two points at 7-5. This was the closest the Highlanders would ever come to the Anteaters in the first set. UCI kept momentum on their side by going on an 8-3 run to increase their lead to 15-8. UCR certainly did not help themselves, committing five errors in the set and converting an abysmal .069 of their hitting opportunities. UCI would shut the door on the Highlanders with a 10-5 run which ended the set at 25-13.
In the first set, UCR looked overmatched by UCI’s offensive attack. However, the second set saw a complete role reversal with the Highlanders jumping to a quick 7-3 lead. The Anteaters dug themselves in a hole, committing four errors which attributed to four easy Highlander points.
“After winning the first set by a wide margin it was hard to stay focused. We just slumped a little but we were able to overcome it,” junior middle blocker Riley Cropper said.
Struggling to find the momentum from the first set, Coach Weishoff was forced to call a timeout as the Highlanders took an 11-6 lead.
The Timeout seemed to cut into the Highlander momentum, as the Anteaters went on a 7-3 run. An enormous kill by Cropper tied the set at 14 apiece. After both teams split the next four points, Kari Pestolesi gave UCI their first lead of the set at 17-16 when she recorded a kill that was too hot to handle. However, UC Riverside did not back down, as they regained the lead at 20-19. A UCI error and a UCR block pushed the Highlander lead to 22-19. The Anteaters took the Highlanders best shot and countered with one of their own tying the set at 23-23.
A costly UCI error gave the Highlanders a one poi nt advantage at 24-23 and the inside track to a second set victory. With their backs against wall, Pestolesi converted a clutch kill that tied the set at 24-24. After splitting the next two points, UCI rallied two straight points to end the set at 27-25 and took a commanding 2-0 advantage.
Just the like the first set, UCI made the third set look easy. Cropper and Alexandra Hauser helped the Anteaters jump to a 9-3 lead, recording four out the first nine points. Trailing 9-3, the Highlanders found an offensive rhythm and capitalized on UCI miscues, which cut the ‘Eater lead to 12-11. Looking for the sweep Cropper and Juliane Piggott recorded two straight points which forced momentum back to the Anteaters’ side. UCI was able to put the set away with ease, winning 25-20 and sweeping the Highlanders three sets to none.
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