Anteaters Start Out 3-1
UCI 3 CBU 0
Head Coach John Speraw and company stepped onto the volleyball court on Tuesday night for the first time since winning the NCAA National Championship last May. UC Irvine certainly looked like defending national champions as they steamrolled over the Lancers of Cal Baptist University, sweeping them three games to none, 30-22, 30-22, 30-21.
Although the ’Eaters are replacing three key contributors from last year’s team, they do return with three All-Americans in Kevin Wynn, Jordan DuFault and Carson Clark. DuFault certainly made his presence felt, as he converted a whopping .778 of his hitting opportunities. Clark was the one who led the Anteater charge, recording a game high of 15 kills, none more important than the kill that put the ’Eaters in the driver’s seat at 15-14 in the second set.
Sophomore Kevin Carroll and junior Jeff Schmitz are two players assuming starting roles with the departures of former Anteaters Taylor Wilson and Ryan Ammerman. Junior Cory Yoder is expected to show his versatility and contribute to the libero position that was vacated by Brent Asuka.
Carroll proved that he will be a force to be reckoned with and showed that he belongs with the Jordan DuFaults and the Carson Clarks of the world. Carroll contributed with 12 kills and killed .500 of his hitting opportunities.
“Kevin had a great night offensively and we are going to need that this year,” Speraw said.
Jeff Schmitz arguably has the biggest shoes to fill: he is replacing the MVP of last year’s national title game in Ammerman. Schmitz did not disappoint, delivering crisp passes to the three-headed monster of Clark, Carroll and DuFault. Schmitz helped the ’Eaters by contributing solid play, recording 44 assists and 10 digs.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, we passed the ball well and when we do that a lot of options open up,” Schmitz said.
The Anteaters as a team showed why they are regarded as a top five program. The ’Eaters played suffocating defense, holding the Lancers to a .160 hitting percentage. They were able to dig 42 balls and block eight.
“We played great defense, we had 42 digs in three games … I thought that was really good,” Speraw said.
In addition to the stifling defensive, the Anteaters were firing at full cylinders on the offensive side. UCI averaged a hitting percentage of .531 through three sets, including a remarkable .704 percentage in the first set.
Early on in the first set, the Lancers showed they could play with the Anteaters, as they jumped out to an early 6-4 lead. However, UCI showed why they won the national championship last season as they stormed back and took an 8-6 lead due in large part to three consecutive kills by Carson Clark. From that point the ’Eaters would never look back, as they went on to win the set.
In the second set, CBU tried to give UCI everything they had and were able to tie the score five different times. Tied at 17 apiece, Clark would give the ’Eaters the lead with another kill. Up 18-17, Clark and teammate Kevin Wynn would block a kill attempt by the Lancers and crush their momentum.
In the third and final set, UCI not only continued to show its dominance, but also displayed their depth. UC Irvine jumped out to a 3-1 lead and never looked back. CBU failed to battle back as the Anteaters never trailed in the set.
Seniors Cole Reinholm and Kevin Welsh and freshman Connor Hughes proved that they are ready to contribute off bench, as the ’Eaters did not lose a step when these three were inserted.
“We have help in every position, we have help in the middle and on the opposite with Cole Reinholm who played well tonight,” Speraw said.
Santa Barbara Elephant Bar Tournament
After defeating CBU on Tuesday night, the Men’s Volleyball team travelled to Santa Barbara to compete in the Elephant Bar Tournament. The ’Eaters finished fifth in the tournament, going 2-1.
The Anteaters opened up the tournament with a 3-1 loss to the No. 7 BYU Cougars 22-30, 30-26, 30-22, and 30-27.
Despite an opening loss, the Anteaters bounced back with two straight wins. The ’Eaters defeated No. 13 UC San Diego 3-1 (30-28, 22-30, 30-26, 30-21).
After beating UC San Diego the Anteaters took on archrival Long Beach State. Carson Clark recorded 20 kills, while Kevin Carroll added another 14 to help the Anteaters beat Long Beach State 3-1 (26-30, 30-26, 30-21, 30-26).
The Anteaters begin MPSF (Mountain Pacific Sport Federation) play with two quality opponents, Pepperdine (Jan 13) and USC (Jan 15). Both games will be played at the Bren Events Center and start at 7:00 p.m. The Anteaters will then travel to Cal State Northridge on January 20.