For most fans it was just another loss in an already difficult season. But for five of the UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team, Saturday’s 3-1 loss against the University of Pittsburgh was the end of their college athletics careers.
The five senior Anteaters (10-20) stepped into Crawford Court that night hoping to leave with one last victory, but instead were forced by the Panthers (15-7) to leave with a heartbreaking 3-1 loss of 30-24, 23-30, 30-25 and 30-21.
Each of the five seniors (Terri Peterson, Keegan Featherstone, Whitney Pavlik, Amanda Vazquez and Jennifer Moser) put forth a tremendous effort in the back-and-forth game, but it was middle blocker Vazquez that stole the night with 16 kills in 25 attempts and six blocks.
‘It was no different than any other game,’ Vazquez said. ‘We [the five seniors] played every game and it was our last season so we wanted to make it memorable.’
Both teams stepped up in the four games played and were able to maintain an almost equal amount of control over the ball. Though both teams seemed to be evenly matched in game one it was Pittsburgh that took the lead with a five-point advantage over the Anteaters.
Luckily, UCI’s senior middle blocker Whitney Pavlik was able to pull off three kills and tie the game at 11-11. Despite Pavlik and Vazquez’s six and 6.5 points, respectively, along with four digs by senior defensive specialist Jennifer Moser, the game ended in favor of the Panthers at 30-24.
With the close defeat in the prior game, the Anteaters seemed to return to play with a renewed spirit and grabbed a quick 3-1 lead early in game two. But Pittsburgh’s senior outside hitter Gini Ullery would not let UCI keep its lead and brought the Panthers back, tying the game at seven each.
UCI continued to show improvement as they scored four consecutive points and widened their lead to 22-15. Finally, an attack error by the Panthers’ freshman outside hitter Stephanie Ross would give UCI the last point and end the game at 30-23.
Vazquez scored a total of 12.5 points during the game followed by Pavlik who had a total of eight points.
The back-and-forth pattern was seen once again in game three as both teams continued trading off the lead position. However, the Anteaters were not able to maintain the trade off long as Pittsburgh pulled itself to a 12-8 lead resulting in UCI Head Coach Charlie Brande calling a timeout.
Moser came up big again for the Anteaters taking a total of 13 digs during the game. Vazquez also performed well with 16 points rivaling Pittsburgh’s Ullery who ended game three with 15.5 points. Freshman middle blocker Lauren Kellerman and junior outside hitter Trisha White left the 30-25 loss with 11.5 points each.
Game four was the height of excitement not only for the two teams, but for fans as well. For the five seniors this was the last chance: if they lost this game their careers would end in a loss. The Panthers took the early lead pushing themselves to 10 points while the Anteaters trailed at six.
The Anteaters started picking themselves up after another timeout called by Brande, quickly gaining two points and pushing the score to 27-16. An error by Ross helped break Pittsburgh’s lead to only five points, giving UCI one last chance to take the game. However, the Anteaters lost control of the ball and ended the game in a 30-21 defeat.
UCI recorded a total of 12 kills and five errors versus Pittsburgh’s 21 kills and five errors. Both teams were once again evenly matched, with the Anteaters recording 33 team attacks and the Panthers taking 37.
‘We did some very good things but we also played very inconsistently,’ Brande said. ‘We just lost focus and concentration.’
As for what’s next for the team, Brande commented that they would take a break for the rest of the quarter until they return for training in January.