Aloha? More Like Zot!
30-17, 30-25, 30-26
The domination of UC Irvine on lower ranked teams continued over the break. It has not lost a match to a team ranked lower than second in the nation throughout conference play, and the University of Hawaii was its final victim.
Taking advantage of the lack of offense power on the UH side of the net, the Anteaters made quick work of the Warriors in the set win. Irvine improved its record to 13-2 in conference play and 18-3 overall as it beat the struggling UH, 30-17, 30-25, 30-26.
The first match in the two-game series was a stat builder for the Anteaters as the Warriors were never able to overcome the overwhelming offensive power of Irvine as it won easily 30-17. However, the second set displayed a determined UH team that gave Irvine its only scare of the night.
The Warriors came within a point of an Anteater lead in the second set, making it 22-21. This push forced the squad to buckle down and prove once and for all that match was not to be lost. The emotional leader of the Anteater team, senior Jon Steller, decided to put the set in his own hands and landed two aces to improve the Anteater lead to 24-21. The lead continued to grow when senior outside hitter Taylor Wilson smashed two kills to improve the Anteater lead to 26-20. This was all the Anteaters needed to put the Warriors down in the second set and go up two sets to none.
The third and final set was mere visual reinforcement of how Irvine was just simply better than the visiting Warriors. Opening the match with six straight points, the Anteaters never lost the lead in the third set, winning in healthy fashion, 30-26. This was the match clincher and put Irvine in a good position to sweep the two-game series.
Wilson had a match-high 15 kills and was followed by sophomore Jordan DuFault who knocked down nine kills. Steller added six kills to his two aces on the night, but freshman Austin D’Amore had the standout performance of the match with a match-best eight block assists. Senior Brent Asuka was the digs leader in the match, picking off seven while senior libero Ryan Ammerman lead the Anteaters with 38 assists at the net.
UCI 3 UH 0
30-19, 30-24, 32-30
The Anteaters were at it again on Friday of the spring break series against University of Hawaii at the Bren Events Center. However, unlike the fairly easy win on Thursday night, Hawaii put together an effort that pushed the third set to extra scoring and put Irvine on its heels for the first time in the two-game series.
However, in championship form, the squad stuffed the Hawaii run and finished them off once more with a third-set win, taking the match in three games, 30-19, 30-24, 32-30. This was the seventh win in a row for the Anteaters and ninth time this season that the Anteaters have swept a match in three sets. This win improved the team’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) record to 14-2 as well as its overall record of 19-3. This win also helped the team stay at number one now for the second straight week.
This was the team’s second straight win over the break, but it did not come as easy as the first. In the third set, Hawaii led 25-23 and forced Irvine to scramble late in the set and retake the lead.
After two straight kills by sophomore Jordan DuFault and a hitting error by Hawaii, sophomore Kevin Wynne and senior Ryan Ammerman put up the wall at the net and blocked a Warrior attempt to put Irvine up by one, at 26-25. But it was not over. Hawaii answered point for point after that block and forced the Anteaters into extra scoring with 31-30 late in the third set. But it was Hawaii that took them out of the set with a hitting error that ended the match at 32-30.
Leading the Anteaters in its three-set win was freshman Carson Clark who smashed in 20 kills against Hawaii defense.
Freshman Austin D’Amore was second in kills with 10 on a hitting average of .562. This was a match of net domination for Irvine who out-blocked Hawaii 14-7.
Irvine will attempt to extend its seven-match win streak this weekend as it travels to Bringham Young University for a two game series.