Highlanders Rise Above Lady ‘Eaters
On Friday, Oct. 14, the UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team looked for its first Big West Conference victory. After the game, not much had changed. The Lady Anteaters started off the game strong by winning the first set, but eventually ran out of steam and were defeated by UC Riverside 33-35, 30-26, 30-21 and 30-27.
The loss dropped the Anteaters’ record to 6-12 overall, 0-5 in conference, while the victory propelled the Highlanders to a 13-5 overall record with a 2-4 conference mark.
The Anteaters were led by senior middle blocker Amanda Vazquez, who recently became the fourth Anteater ever to reach 300 career blocks. She had 19 kills and three blocks in the match. Also, junior outside hitter Trisha White contributed with 16 kills and three digs.
The Anteaters started the game strong and looked poised to win their first conference game this year. Battling for four game points, the Anteaters finally pulled away with a 35-33 first game win. Yet the Anteaters struggled to contain Riverside’s Jamie DeKiewiet in the following games. Already the all-time kills leader at UCR, DeKiewiet dominated with 21 kills and 22 digs while carrying the Highlanders in the next three games.
UCI Head Coach Charlie Brande felt the team had a good strategy to stop Jamie, but ‘failed to get in front her throughout the match.’
‘She’s an exceptionally good athlete who has given us trouble throughout the years,’ Brande said.
In the second game the Anteaters rallied back from a 12-8 early deficit to tie the game at 22. Yet the Highlanders’ experience allowed them to keep their composure as they pulled of an 8-4 run to win the second game.
‘They let up on some of the blocking schemes that led them to victory in the first set,’ White said.
In the pivotal third game the Anteaters made many costly errors that altered the momentum in favor of the Highlanders. Riverside’s senior outside hitter Valerie Bueno contributed with three service aces and key hustle plays that allowed the Highlanders to take a 20-17 lead. The Anteaters were unable to catch up as they were outscored 10-4 to finish the game.
‘The Highlanders simply made better adjustments and were able to make the big plays on our strikers,’ Brande said. ‘They continued to battle and capitalize on our mistakes.’
The first half of the fourth set belonged to UCR. They jumped out to an early 26-20 lead with strong play from DeKiewiet. The Anteaters tried to rally late with their co-captain Vazquez leading the charge. The Anteaters were eventually able to cut the lead to 28-27 as the Highlander players looked like soccer stars consistently hitting the ball into the net.
With the crowd on their feet the match looked as if it was going into a decisive fifth set. Yet, on match point, Riverside’s leader senior outside hitter Jamie DeKiewiet aggressively landed a kill, propelling the Highlanders to a four set victory.
Even with the loss, many of the UCI coaches and players are optimistic about their team. ‘The girls just have to continue working hard, getting stronger, and build on the experience that they have learned,’ Brande said. Many of the UCI players agree.
‘The team still has a lot of drive,’ Brande said. ‘They have to learn to be consistent while sustaining the great plays throughout the entire game.’
If the volleyball team is able to play like it did in the first set, it will have no problem eventually winning its first conference game and turning its season around. Missing its opportunity against Riverside, the Women’s Volleyball team now turns their attention to their upcoming games against Cal State Fullerton and Loyola Marymount.