Anteaters Finish Third Place in Big West

After finishing 10-21 a year ago, the women’s volleyball team has officially reversed its record. Following a sweep over UC Santa Barbara and a 3-1 defeat by first-place Cal Poly this weekend, the Anteaters will conclude their regular season at third place in the Big West. With the win and the loss, their record currently stands at 21-10.
The Anteaters swept UCSB by scores of 30-26, 30-28 and 30-26 Friday night. It marked the first time the Anteaters defeated UCSB twice in one season.
Sophomore Chelsea Ellis was errorless for UC Irvine, recording a .769 hitting percentage. Freshman Kari Pestolesi recorded a match-high 17 kills while picking up 12 digs.
Junior Lauren Kellerman contributed 13 kills and junior libero Devon Sutherland led the team with 22 digs, recording 20 or more digs for the fourth time in the last six matches. Sophomore setter Taryn Robertson handed out 45 assists and junior Shannan Homan matched a season-high nine kills while leading the team with four block assists.
UCI opened game one with a three-point lead at 8-5 until UCSB tied the game with three straight points on a kill from Brett Quirarte, who had seven kills in the match.
UCSB took command with an 18-14 lead late in the match, but UCI put together a five-point rally to take a 19-18 lead. Both teams took turns scoring as the score knotted at 25-25.
But it was UCI that came through at the end of each match. Ellis put the ball away and paired up with Homan to block UCSB for a two-point advantage at 27-25. Following a kill by Kellerman, the Gauchos sealed the deal for the Anteaters after two unforced errors.
In game two, the Anteaters maintained a lead throughout the early going. They took an 8-5 lead that eventually turned into a 19-14 advantage after a service ace by senior defensive specialist Caroline Kim.
With the game still within reach at 25-20, UCSB gave UCI a scare, scoring five unanswered points as UCI committed three errors in the rally. With the game tied at 25-25, the Gauchos committed a service error and were called out of rotation on the following play, giving UCI a 27-25 lead.
The Anteaters capitalized on the opportunity and didn’t let UCSB battle back. Robertson put the ball away on a pass by Pestolesi to put UCI up 29-27. Finally, Robertson went back to Pestolesi for the game-winning point.
From the looks of the third game, it seemed game two had sucked the morale out of the Gauchos. In the final set, UCI jumped to an 8-3 lead and didn’t let it get interesting. At one point, the Anteaters commanded a nine-point lead at 22-13. UCSB came within three points at 29-26, but Homan put the ball away to seal the sweep.
Saturday’s game versus first-place Cal Poly didn’t unfold as kindly for the Anteaters.
Pestolesi totaled a match-high 20 kills for the Anteaters, but it was not enough to slow down 19th-ranked Cal Poly. The Mustangs defeated UCI 3-1 (27-30, 30-18, 30-22, 30-16) Saturday in the Big West Conference finale for both teams at Mott Gym in San Luis Obispo.
The loss concluded an otherwise stellar season for the Anteaters