Coming off of a sweeping win over Cal State Northridge, the UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team took on the Pacific Tigers Saturday, Nov. 19 at Crawford Hall. The match, which went all five games, went in favor of the Tigers with a final score of 30-26, 30-26, 25-30, 23-30, 15-9.
Starting right from the beginning of the first game, the two teams went back and forth, a trend that would continue as the night went on. Jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead behind consecutive service aces from senior libero Terri Peterson, UCI would play a see-saw game with Pacific with neither team leading by more than four. It was the Tigers that would have the lead in the end, though, winning the first game 30-26.
The second game started out better for the Anteaters (10-19, 3-11 Big West) as they took an early 8-3 lead on the strong serving of freshman middle blocker Lauren Kellerman, only to be caught by the Tigers (16-12, 8-6 Big West) later in the game at 18 apiece. From there the pressure seemed to be too much for UCI as they were not able to regain the lead and fell again to the Tigers, 30-26.
‘I really felt like we were in both of the first two games,’ said UCI Head Coach Charlie Brande. ‘We showed our youth today, committing unforced mistakes.’
If youth was shown in the first two games, it was a seldom seen maturity and fire that appeared over the next two. Coming out after the break in the third game, UCI took the lead and never looked back, leading the whole way and winning the game 30-25.
‘After those first two games, we just decided that we knew we could play with this team. We just needed to show it on the court,’ said sophomore setter Christa Conom.
What they showed was that they were not satisfied with winning one game, as they pounced on the Tigers in game four, taking a 9-0 lead by riding the outstanding play of senior middle blocker Amanda Vazquez. Vazquez continually sent kills over, around and through the Pacific defense to help UCI hold their lead for the entire game, winning 30-23 and forcing a fifth and final game.
With momentum clearly on their side and everything going their way, UCI looked as though they would pull off the major upset as the fifth game began. UCI took the early lead after senior middle blocker Whitney Pavlik took a nice set from Conom and sent a kill right down the middle of the Tiger defense. Pacific would not take it lying down, though, as they battled back and took the lead. Down 6-3, Brande called a timeout to settle his club down and help stop the slide. It appeared to have worked as UCI came back out and quickly cut the lead to 7-6.
‘When it got to 7-6 in that last game, I really thought we were poised for another big run and that the game was going to be ours,’ Brande said.
Unfortunately for Brande and the Anteaters, that run never came, as Pacific proved to be too much, closing out the match on an 8-3 run and winning 15-9.
Hopefully the Anteaters will be able to take what they learned from this game and apply it against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Nov. 26 in their final home game of the season. Fans are encouraged to show up early to the match as it will be the last game played by this year’s seniors. Awards will be given before the game and the fans will have a chance to say goodbye and thank the players for the time and effort they’ve given to UCI and the volleyball program.