The defending national champion UC Irvine men’s volleyball team took on the University of the Pacific and Stanford University in a pair of home games last weekend at the Bren Events Center and Crawford Court.
On Friday night, the 17th-ranked Anteaters (3-2, 1-0) swept Pacific 30-27, 30-26, 30-24 in each teams’ first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game of the season. With the win, the Anteaters improved to 31-3 at home since Jan. 3, 2006. Outside hitter Taylor Wilson led all players with 18 kills and libero Brent Asuka recorded a season high 13 digs.
Pacific saw the force of the new ‘Eater freshman, who is going to play a big role in a team that saw four All-Americans graduate last season. Freshman outside hitters Jordan DuFault and Cory Yoder each put away nine kills. Both had solid games and expect to have important roles for the Anteaters throughout MPSF play.
Anthony Spittle totaled 40 assists and had nine digs, and senior Aaron Harrell led UCI with five blocks.
Game one saw the teams going back and forth, exchanging points until UCI took a 15-13 advantage on a solo block by Harrell. UCI took a 24-20 lead late in the game after an Anteater triple block on Pacific’s Jeff Hendershot. The Tigers brought the game within one point at 25-24. However, Spittle then connected with DuFault and Wilson on back-to-back plays for a 28-25 lead. A Tiger service error gave UCI game point and Wilson fired a cross-court kill for the set.
In game two, the Anteaters scored six consecutive points to go up 21-15 that was capped by a kill from Wilson. UCI’s largest lead of the match was at 23-17 as Wilson tallied back-to-back kills. Pacific fought to within three but Wilson again came through to give the Anteaters a 2-0 lead in the match.
In the final game, UCI broke away from a 15-15 tie with three straight points to lead 18-15. A Hendershot kill brought Pacific to within one point at 18-17, but after a service error and two Anteater blocks, UCI gained a 21-17 lead. A kill from freshman Yoder put the Anteaters at match point and Pacific’s error would cap off the clean sweep from UCI.
On Saturday night, the Anteaters did everything right, except win against the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal team. The Anteaters lost the game 3-1 (30-28, 23-30, 30-28, 30-28) to make them 3-3 overall and 1-1 in MPSF play.
UCI out-hit its opponent .347-.250 on the match with almost every starting, making a significant contribution. Taylor Wilson tied for a match-high 18 kills and Cory Yoder had 14 kills on 24 attempts with one error for a .542 average. Anteater Kevin Carroll made his debut by tallying 13 kills. Setter Spittle recorded 50 assists and libero Brent Asuka had a match-high 12 digs. Senior Aaron Harrell topped all players with five block assists to lead UCI to a 9.5-4 advantage.
In game one, Stanford came out with a 6-2 lead and maintained the lead until at 22-18, UCI scored four consecutive points to tie the match at 22-22. Following a Stanford timeout, a pair of UCI service errors gave the Cardinal a 24-22 lead. UCI would tie the game at 28-28 on a powerful kill from Wilson. A Stanford kill and an Anteater error would give the first set to the Cardinal