Cal Poly 3
UC Irvine 1
In a game that was theirs for the taking, the UC Irvine women’s volleyball team opened up Big West Conference play with a tough loss to the Cal Poly Mustangs at Crawford Court on Friday. After two heart-wrenching losses in the first two games, 34-32 and 30-26, both of which were tied at 25 a piece and could have gone either way, UCI came out strong in the third game to stave off defeat 21-30. However, the rally was too little too late as the Mustangs took the fourth and deciding game 30-27 for a decisive three games-to-one victory.
Commenting on falling behind early, sophomore outside hitter Lauren Kellerman said, ‘It’s hard to come back from that deficit. We need to come out stronger, but at the same time, to win that third game and play well in the fourth, that showed that we came together as a team and were willing to fight.’
Down two games to none and facing the possibility of a sweep on their home court, UCI went to the break looking for some much needed inspiration.
‘We knew we could play with them, after the first two games really could have gone either way,’ Kellerman said. ‘Looking at the stats, everything was even. We just needed to find a way to win the key points and working on being more focused.’
Whatever was said in the locker room between the second and third game rang loud and clear when UCI took the court. Seemingly wanting to make a statement and not let the game stay close, UCI jumped out to a 17-10 lead behind the strong play of Kelley, Kellerman and freshman outside hitter McCall Miller, each firing spikes at a suddenly overwhelmed Mustang defense. UCI pushed their lead to as much as 10 points in the game and cruised to an easy victory, sparking some interest in the Crawford Court crowd.
With the crowd behind them, UCI looked to tie the games up at 2-2 and take the match to a fifth and deciding game, but Cal Poly had other plans. In a fourth game where they fell behind quickly and had to exert much of their energy to battle back to tie it up at 22-22, UCI could not find the extra push to finish off the Mustangs. Playing catch-up the entire night hurt the Anteaters as the Mustangs finished the game strongly, going on an 8-5 run to take the fourth game and the overall match 34-32, 30-26, 21-30, 30-27.
‘We have to push more, to take care of business in the beginning and put a little fear into our opponents from the outset,’ Miller said after the game. ‘It was a tough loss but we had a lot of improvement in our digging and setting, as well as play in the middle and hopefully we can carry some of the improvements forward into our next games.’
The strong play described was evident in the stats sheet, as sophomore Devon Sutherland had a career-high of 25 digs, Kelley recorded a match high of 19 kills with four blocks, and Kellerman and Miller had 17 and 11 kills respectively. Not to be forgotten, the player setting up most of those kills was freshman setter Taryn Robertson, who had a career high 55 assists in the game. It was a great individual accomplishment for the starters, but tough because the team lost.
In a first game that saw Cal Poly jump out to a 16-9 lead, the Anteaters showed some determination, rallying to tie the score at 21. From there it was a see-saw affair with neither team able to gain more than a two-point advantage. Facing game point at 30-29, UCI tied it up on a net violation by the Lady Mustangs. On the ensuing play, Kelley hammered a powerful spike off the block to give the Anteaters the point, and some much needed momentum. Unfortunately, Irvine could not capture the following point, which would have given them the first game. Instead, Cal Poly went on a 4-1 run to close out the game.
The second game consisted of both teams firing back and forth at each other and the score staying close. The Anteaters needed to win the game to even up the match, while a Cal Poly victory would dig Irvine into an insurmountable deficit. Unfortunately for the Anteaters, their struggles continued as it was more of the same towards the end of the game, with the Mustangs (10-4) going on another run to finish off the game, this time 5-1.
The Anteaters (4-11) played again the following night and lost in heart-breaking fashion. After building a two-games-to-one lead against UC Santa Barbara, the lady Anteaters were unable to hold on to their lead and lost in five games, 30-32, 30-27, 27-30, 30-22, 15-4.
The women’s team will look to turn their season around when they play on the road against conference rivals Cal State Long Beach on Oct. 5 before returning home on Oct. 7 to host Pacific at Crawford Hall.