Cleanin’ Up Northern Cali

UCI 3 Stanford 0

Going into the Friday’s match at Stanford University, men’s volleyball coach, John Speraw, had a bit of uncertainty plaguing him as he prepared for the trip. You would think that after pummeling every team in the conference at least once, being number one in the nation and not to mention dominating Stanford at home in the last match, there would be a more relaxed feeling around the Anteater head coach.

But Speraw was not to be fooled. All week he prepared his top-ranked team for a huge match against a much improved Cardinal lineup.

Well, it worked.

The Anteaters stormed into Maple Pavilion and swept Stanford, 30-28, 30-24, 30-22.

This win put UC Irvine into an unofficial lock for first place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) with one match to go the next night at the University of Pacific. But there is no denying that this was a very important win for the guys.

“It is always nice to be playing your best volleyball at the end of the season,” Speraw said after the match. “I think we are right on schedule here down the last stretch, and I also think that we have areas we can improve on. And if there is room to improve when you are beating teams like we are, that is always a good sign.”

This brings the Anteaters’ record to a well-rounded 23-4 overall and 18-3 in league play. And with a hitting performance that the team put together against Stanford, the championship is looking very bleak for any team not from UCI.

The Anteaters put up an impressive .457 hitting average and were guided by the still blossoming skill of senior setter Ryan Ammerman. He masterfully dished out 53 sets in the sweep and spread the offense evenly amongst squad. He also added three blocks, three aces and four kills.

The main benefactors from the Ammerman’s sets were the usual hammers. Carson Clark landed 16 kills, Taylor Wilson smoked in 15 kills and Jordan DuFault rounded the leaders out with 12 kills.

The only time the Cardinals pushed an upset was in the first set as the point tallies were going back and forth throughout. There were 19 ties in the set and it took an ace by senior Nick Spittle to put them up by one late at 27-26. From then on, the Anteaters did not look back as they took the first set, 30-28.

But the next two sets were not nearly as much of a battle as Irvine cruised through both and took the match.

The ‘Eaters got hot as they headed into Saturday’s match against University of Pacific.

UCI 3 UOP 0

League Title? Clinched.

Conference Championship? Game on.

After a hefty win at Stanford on Friday, the men’s volleyball team rolled into the University of Pacific with a sense of urgency and wasted no time. UC Irvine jumped into a 12-5 lead that featured a 6-0 run, led by sophomore outside hitter Cory Yoder who poked in three kills. But UOP was not giving in quietly. After a big come-back, UOP tied the score at 27-27 and the Anteaters found themselves scrambling.

But like the champions that they are, the ‘Eaters met the challenge with a furious offensive attack and ended up wining the first set 36-34.

The Anteaters finished off the Tigers with a fair amount of ease as they went on to win the next two sets, beating UOP in a three set sweep, 36-34, 30-17, 30-23.

The sweep put the Anteaters in the top spot going into the playoffs as they snatched the second league title in the program’s history. This win also put the Anteaters in a position to have home-court advantage through the entirety of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference tournament.

But the team is not focused on anything but that first match.

“The first round is the only thing we are worried about,” Speraw said. “UCLA is the best number eight seed since I have been coaching. From top to bottom this is the best tournament bracket I have seen and when that is the case, the only thing we are thinking is who is on the other side of the court. We are not worried about who is on the other side of the bracket.”

The team will play its first match on Saturday at the Bren Events Center at 7 p.m. against the UCLA Bruins.

The athletic department has already given the go on a “Black-Out” event for the home game. Get your shirts and tickets as soon as possible because this one will sell out. UCLA travels very well and it is important that our guys get that home-court advantage the students can provide.