UC Irvine women’s volleyball shattered its two-game losing streak with consecutive wins in Big West Conference matches on Friday and Saturday against Pacific and UC Davis at Crawford Court. UCI jumped to 14-6 overall and a shared first place ranking in Big West alongside Long Beach State and Cal Poly, each holding a 4-1 record and .800 winning percentage.
Freshman outside hitter Kari Pestolesi topped the team with 12 kills for the first match, followed by junior outside hitter Lauren Kellerman and Chelsea Ellis with 11 and eight kills, respectively. Kellerman also contributed nine digs and committed only two errors in 31 attempts. Sophomore setter Taryn Robertson gave 41 assists, while junior libero Devon Sutherland made 11 digs. Junior middle blocker Shannan Homan set a career-high .500 hitting percentage, with nine kills and two errors in 14 attempts. Homan also performed five digs and six blocks.
The first game started close, but the Anteaters broke into a 15-11 lead during a three-point rally. Pacific crept back up to 19-18 on a UCI attack error, but two kills from Kellerman and one from Ellis scored three points for a score of 22-18. A service error by Pacific concluded the set.
‘We started off strong by following the game plan and showed that we can compete with the best,’ Pestolesi said.
‘In the end, [conference play] comes down to who wants the win more.’
The Anteaters maintained a solid lead in the second game until a kill from Johanna Hilbers returned Pacific to the competition at 27-23, but a block from Pestolesi and senior middle blocker Kristin Kelley and a kill from Kelley gave Irvine its third win of the 30-23, 30-24, 30-26 sweep.
Three Pacific attack errors brought the Anteaters to a 5-1 lead in the final game, but with two UCI errors, Pacific pulled back up to 5-4. During a six-point UCI lead of 28-22, the Tigers scored four points on a rally, followed by a kill from Kellerman for a score of 29-26, and a searing kill by Ellis to end the game.
Confident from their Friday victory, the Anteaters claimed an early 3-0 lead against UC Davis on Saturday. UC Davis crawled up to 10-10, but gave up the tie for a 13-10 UCI lead after committing three attack errors.
The Aggies continued to hug the Anteaters’ lead throughout the first game until a kill by Tori Hooper and block by Erin Turner and Kelly Patterson allowed Davis to shoot ahead to 25-23. Two kills by Kellerman stole the lead back from Davis, and another at 29-26 marked Irvine’s first win against Davis.
A four-point rally turned over another early UCI lead to the Aggies at 14-13, but during a second rally at 18-18, UCI climbed three points ahead and held onto the lead for a winning kill by Ellis.
‘Davis played an awesome match,’ Kellerman said. ‘I feel we didn’t come out as strong as we could have [in Saturday’s game] because we were so focused on Friday, but we were able to come together as a team and remain strong.’
UCI grabbed an early lead in the third game as well, but fell to 14-11 after two service aces by Avreeta Singh and two UCI attack errors. UCI recovered at 19-18 on a block by Kellerman and Ellis and maintained the lead until a service error by Davis concluded the game.
Kellerman recorded a season-high 21 kills, with Pestolesi finishing second at 13 kills. Ellis and Homan each had four blocks, and Sutherland led in digs with 14. Robertson made 44 assists.
‘I knew that Davis would come prepared, and I worried about our emotional state,’ said Head Coach Charlie Brande.
‘We were soft from the win on Friday, but we took a big push and made all the right plays at the right times.’
The Lady Anteaters will hit the road Thursday for a much-anticipated match against Cal State Fullerton, which surrendered its undefeated 3-0 record during the Oct. 2 and 5 matches against Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly and now ranks fifth in Big West.