UCI Cleaning House
Coming off a tough loss against Cal State Northridge, the men’s volleyball team was looking for redemption against UC San Diego; that’s exactly what they got. Fifth ranked UC Irvine swept the Tritons in straight sets, 3-0 (30-24, 30-22, 30-19), on Wednesday. The win pushed the Anteaters to a (5-2, 2-1) record.
The real story was the hitting percentage of the Anteaters, an outstanding .517 and a season high, against the Tritons compared to the dismal .194 hitting percentage the Anteaters had against CSU Northridge on Monday. UCSD was held to just .218 hitting after being out blocked 14-4 by the Anteaters.
The first set started out close. No team could really establish a lead, up until midway through the set when UCI went on a 4-1 to lead 25-19. After that run, the Tritons never got back and the Anteaters took the set 30-24. In the first set, senior Jon Steller hit .800, only hitting one error compared to his 8 kills.
The second set wasn’t much different. However, this time senior Taylor Wilson led the way. Wilson had five kills in the second set and would spark a 5-1 run to open the set. Wilson had two kills during this run. UCI would hold this lead until 22-16, and eventually went on and took the set 30-22 .
At first it looked like the third set might be a bit different. Irvine wasn’t able to get out to a lead early in the set, and the Tritons were playing well. However, at 6-6, the Anteaters put on a 7-0 run to lead 13-6. From there it was smooth sailing as the Tritons were not able to recover from the run. The Anteaters went on to take the set 30-19. The Anteaters hit well in the third set, but the real story was the net play. The Anteaters held the Tritons to just .035 hitting in the third set.
Irvine had three players with double digit kills on Wednesday, which was quite the contrast from Monday’s game against Northridge. Steller led the Anteaters who notched 16 kills – the highest in the game. Sophomore Jordan DeFault notched 12 kills hitting .417 and also tied his season high in block assists with seven.
UCI 3 LB State 1
The men’s volleyball team concluded its week at Long Beach State with a win over The Beach on Friday night. The Anteaters scrambled but came out on top (34-32, 32-30, 28-30, 30-27).
After a tough first set win, the second set featured an onslaught of Long Beach offense that was answered by staunch defense and key offensive plays late in the set. Senior Nick Spittle came into the game with Irvine down by one and delivered an ace to tie the game up at 21-21.
After a few exchanges of points, junior Byran Simmons pounded in a short set from senior Nick Goldsbrough-Reardon to put Irvine up by one at 26-25 and shift the momentum completely on the side of Irvine. But Long Beach was going to be put away easily.
A kill by Daniel Fabry tied the game up once again at 29-29 sending the student section into frenzy. On the very next point, sophomore Jordan DuFault quickly put the 49er faithful at bay with a kill to go up by one at 30-29. However, with the student section still rallying behind their guys, Long Beach’s Tommy Pestolesi put in a kill to tie it up once again at 30-30. This would be the last tie of the game.
On the next sequence, three Irvine players jumped into a big block to go up by one and send the score to match point at 31-30. DuFault felt the need to put the set in his own hands with a smashed over serve that clipped the top of the net and dropped straight to the floor for the ace, making it 32-30, lifting Irvine to a two game lead.
Irvine lost the third game, 28-30, after a late run by Long Beach State only to recapture its momentum in the fourth set and end the match with a fourth game win, 30-27.
“I really like certain aspects of our game right now. I think we are blocking really well and serving really well,” said Coach John Speraw. “Like every team, we have some inconsistencies because it is still early in the season. I do not think we have reached our max potential yet.”
Senior John Stellar led the team with 19 kills as DuFault followed with 16 kills. The two players combined for 13 total blocks. Senior Taylor Wilson added 11 kills and five digs while senior Ryan Ammerman notched 43 assists, six digs and four block assists.
However, the stats are an obvious side note for this team that wins on its ability to translate its chemistry into clean volleyball. The amount of fun that this team has on the court is undeniable.
“It is a special experience that these players are going through,” Speraw said. “It is something that we have talked about since the start of the season. The opportunity to play D-1 at a school like Irvine is special and we like to see our players enjoying it.”
The Anteaters will play Princeton University on Monday and UCLA on Thursday at the Bren Events Center this week.