Going into Friday night’s match against University of Pacific (UOP), the UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team was looking to rebound after losing a heartbreaker against Santa Barbara.
The Anteaters bounced back in a big way, showing their toughness and determination by winning three sets to one, 25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 25-11.
“I was very impressed with sets one and four. I think we took a step in the right direction after tonight’s victory,” first-year Head Coach, Paula Weishoff, said.
The ‘Eaters were lead by junior transfer Juliane Piggott’s team high 18 kills and Kari Pestolesi’s double-double, 12 kills and 14 dig s.
UCI established their dominance over Pacific early on in the first set, opening up with a 6-3 lead. A combination of tenacious defense and costly errors committed by the Tigers increased the Anteater lead to 12-5. Pacific responded with a mini 3-0 run, which cut the lead to 12-8. Pestolesi and Piggott forced momentum back to Irvine’s side with a kill and block respectively. The ‘Eaters went on a 12-7 run which shut the door on the Tigers and ended the set at 25-18.
The Anteaters were able to carry their momentum from the first set onto the second set. They opened up with an onslaught of offensive attacks, which put the Anteaters up at 8-3. UCI was unable to find the jugular and allowed the Tigers to get back into the set and tie it at 16-16.
Down 21-19, UCI gathered themselves and went on the offensive to take the lead at 22-21. The Anteaters would not relinquish this lead and would go on to take the set at 25-23.
The third set opened up with both team evenly matched and exchanging points. UCI was able to take an early 3-2 advantage but UOP countered back and took the lead at 6-5. In the first two sets, the Irvine defense was able to hold the Pacific attack in check, holding them to a sub .100 hitting percentage.
“We work as a team on defense, we had great communication and played really good volleyball,” junior outside hitter, Juliane Piggott, said.
However, the Tigers snapped out of their offensive funk and converted .351 of their hitting opportunities. UCI was able to regain the lead at 9-8, but costly Anteaters errors gave the lead back to the Tigers at 12-11. Although the Anteaters kept close, they could not climb back into the set and Tigers ultimately took the set at 25-22.
In the final set, UCI showed their sense of urgency, pouncing on the tigers with an early 9-1 lead.
The Anteaters never allowed the Tigers to get into any sort of offensive rhythm, holding them to a .038 hitting percentage. UC Irvine would go on to take the set at 25-11, and the match at 3-1.
UC Irvine 3 UC Davis 1
The road did not get any easier for UC Irvine when UC Davis came to town. The Aggies came into Crawford Court with a 12-3 overall record and an undefeated status in conference play at 3-0. However, by the end of the night, the ‘Eaters handed Davis their first conference loss of the season, winning 3-1.
UC Irvine received a huge contribution from junior outside hitter Kari Pestolesi, who recorded 21 kills, 15 digs, and 5 blocks.
“She had a great match tonight. She was a big part of the reason why we won … The team just got on her shoulders and we rode her until the end of the match,” Coach Weishoff said.
The first set proved to be a problem for the Anteaters, as they lost 22-25.
“I think we just underestimated them in the beginning but once we figured out their game plan and stuck to ours, things just seemed to work for us,” Pestolesi said.
The Aggies were able to carry their momentum from the first set onto the second set, jumping on the ‘Eaters with a 4-1 lead. Pestolesi tied the set at 5-5 by recording two straight points. The Aggies kept taking advantage of sloppy UCI play and came up with big kills of their own. Sensing that the set was getting away from them, Coach Weishoff called a timeout when the Aggies increased their lead to 17-13.
“Just keep going point for point […] we don’t have to do anything extra. Let’s just execute the game plan and stay confident,” Coach Weishoff said during the timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Pestolesi would record an enormous kill that would cut the Aggies lead to two at 15-17. An ace by Piggott forced Davis to call a timeout. UC Irvine was able to come back and tie the set at 18-18. With newfound resurgence and momentum, the Anteaters were able to take the lead at 19-18. After the Aggies tied the game at 20-20, UC Irvine’s Taryn Robertson and Piggott teamed up to block an Aggie kill and put the set out of hand at 25-23.
After splitting the first two sets, both UC Davis and UC Irvine knew the importance of the third set. UC Davis was able to take the first point when an Anteater ball landed outside. However this would be the only time thar the Anteaters would trail in the set. A Pestolesi kill ignited an 8-3 run, which increased the Anteater lead to 14-8. The Aggies were never able to recover for the UC Irvine assault, going on to lose 25-17.
Davis opened up the fourth set with a kill which gave them the lead at 1-0. However, just like the third set, this would be the only time the Anteaters would trail. The Aggies certainly did not help themselves – committing five errors in the set. The Anteaters capitalized on the Aggie errors which gave them a 15-9 lead. The Aggies could not overcome a four point deficit and would eventually lose the set at 25-19 and the match at 3-1.
This was a very impressive weekend for the Anteaters, defeating two teams with 11 or more wins. These two conference wins put the Anteaters in second place with a 3-1 conference record.