The Anteaters failed to gain momentum as they faced off against Cal State Long Beach in their third conference match on Wednesday, and UC San Diego on Saturday.
No. 7-ranked UC Irvine was swept 3-0 (36-34, 30-28, 30-24), while No. 5 ranked Long Beach ran its undefeated record to 5-0 overall, 3-0 in MPSF games.
Leading UCI in kills was freshman Kevin Carroll, who had a career-high 15. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to counter Long Beach, who hit .286 for the match and was boosted by 12 kills from Dean Bittner and five from Fletcher Anderson. The 49ers received plenty of contributions from their bench as well. Sophomore Tommy Pestolesi, brother of star Anteater Kari Pestolesi, added a season-high four kills, five digs, three blocks and three service aces.
Pestolesi entered game two with the 49ers down 27-23 after Long Beach had given up three straight points to UCI after two hitting errors and a service ace. Pestolesi cut the lead from there, beginning with a kill to bring the Beach within three. He then served three aces in a row to tie the game at 27-27.
The Anteaters couldn’t remedy Long Beach’s drive. After two more Pestolesi serves and two UCI hitting errors, the 49ers led 29-27 lead. They would close out game two with a 7-1 run to win 30-28.
Junior Taylor Wilson added 13 kills and two aces for the Anteaters. Red-shirt freshman Kevin Wynne totaled five kills and had a team-high five blocks plus five digs. Fellow freshman Anthony Spittle recorded 39 assists and an ace. UCI managed just a .255 average for the match.
UCI’s luck didn’t change on Saturday. The Anteaters hosted UCSD to take on the Tritons who were just 4-27 all-time versus UCI. But history was no indicator of how Saturday night’s match unfolded as UCSD downed the Anteaters three games to one.
After falling behind two games to none, UCI denied elimination by squeezing out a 33-31 victory and appeared close to tying the games at two a piece before the Tritons rallied to strike through the 25-21 lead UCI had built in game four. Failing to finish the game strong, the Anteaters relinquished just their fifth victory ever to UCSD, losing the game 34-32, and match 3-1.
‘We are struggling early on in the season, but it is fundamental volleyball, passing and serving that we can improve upon,’ Head Coach Speraw said. ‘I didn’t doubt there would be some struggles with a young team, but we just need to keep working hard and we’ll be a pretty good team at the end of the season.’
The loss drops UCI to 1-3 in conference matches. They will look to even up their record as they travel to Pepperdine and USC this week.