Friday night at the Bren Events Center was perhaps the most thrilling night of the year. Unfortunately, UC Irvine was on the losing side.
Top-ranked Brigham Young University defeated sixth-ranked UCI in a five-game nail biter (30-28, 32-34, 30-22, 28-30, 28-26). Nearly 2,000 people were in attendance to witness the instant classic.
UCI, playing again without team leader Taylor Wilson, showed its tremendous depth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match. Wilson is out with an ankle injury.
Four Anteaters reached double digits in kills. Jon Stellar led the team with 18 kills, while Kevin Carroll and Kevin Wynne added 14 and 13 kills respectively. Wynne also lead the Anteaters with five blocks. Libero Brent Asuka paced the team with 15 digs, and the combo of Ryan Ammerman proved potent again with 66 assists.
UCI proved it could keep up with the best in game one. The teams went back and forth until BYU built a 20-17 lead. UCI would fight back to tie the game at 23 on a kill by Cole Reinholm. However, when the game was at 27 points apiece, BYU capitalized on a couple of UCI block errors and set up Ivan Perez for the game-winning kill at 30-28.
BYU looked to have deflated the Anteaters when they jumped out to a 16-9 lead in game two. Then UCI did what it has been doing all season: fighting back from large deficits. The Anteaters strung two three-point rallies to close in at 24-23. Following a BYU timeout, UCI tied up the up on a cross-court kill by Reinholm. UCI took a 31-30 lead on a Perez error.
At 32-32, Coach John Speraw’s decision to use the 6-foot-8-inch setter Ammerman proved genius when he blocked a BYU kill and helped cause a Perez kill to go wide. The Anteaters took the game at 34-32.
BYU came out strong in game three and after a Stellar kill closed the margin at 17-15, BYU strung together a 4-1 run. At 24-20, BYU rallied for five consecutive points and then took the game on another Perez kill.
UCI found itself in another big deficit in game four at 15-11. It would rally again, however, to tie the game at 20 on a kill by Aaron Harrell. Harrell’s service ace brought the Anteaters to within one after a three-point rally by BYU at 23-22.
BYU then pulled together another three points to go up to 26-23, only to see that lead relinquished to an Anteater three-point rally. Reinholm then continued his clutch hitting, getting a kill off a Cougar hand to set up the game point. A failed BYU kill gave the Anteaters a 30-28 win. The win tied the match at 2-2 and forced a deciding fifth set.
As BYU had been doing throughout the match, they built an early lead at 9-5. A pair of UCI kills and a Reinholm service ace closed the gap at 9-8. The Anteaters then took the lead at 11-10 by three consecutive kills. An errant set and back-to-back attack errors gave BYU game-point at 14-11.
Following a Cougar service error, Spittle used all of his 6