After a tough loss to No. 1 ranked USC, the No. 4 men’s volleyball team looked to rebound the following week when they travelled to No. 2 Cal State Northridge and hosted No. 11 UC Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, the team walked away from the tough stretch with a three game skid.
UCI travelled to Northridge’s Matadome on Wednesday to take on the undefeated Matadors. Opposite Carson Clark led UCI with a match-high 23 kills.
After splitting for the first two sets of the match, a tight third set was tied at 27-27. The ’Eaters let the set get away when the Matadors took the last three points with a service error and two service aces.
Although the score was closer in the fourth and final set at 30-28, the Matadors had control for most of the set and ran away with the victory.
After what Coach John Speraw saw as a strong week for the ’Eaters last week, the loss to Northridge was a setback for UCI.
After the tough loss to the Matadors, UCI went back home to the Bren Events Center to take on the No. 11 UCSB Gauchos. This marked the seventh straight ranked opponent the ‘Eaters faced and the first to be ranked under UCI after the consecutive matches against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams.
The first three sets of the match were very close with neither team having a strong hold of the set. During the opening set, UCI seemed to have the set at hand before Santa Barbara came back from a couple of set points to take the set 32-30.
Irvine showed a similar resiliency in the second set as they went down early and had to battle back before retaking the lead at 28-27 on a five point run. The ’Eaters would take the set reversing the score of the opener.
The third set contrasted from the first two in that neither team had to comeback to win. The set was close through with both teams able to answer the other’s runs with runs of their own.
The Gauchos closed the third set out with a three point run at the end taking momentum and making the fourth and final set an easy win for the Gauchos.
“I thought Santa Barbara competed harder than we did today,” Head Coach John Speraw said, obviously not happy with his team’s effort against the Gauchos,
Throughout the match the ’Eaters were plagued with inconsistent serving and numerous errors on both their attacks and services.
After the first set, sophomore opposite Carson Clark, junior outside hitter Jordan DuFault and junior setter Anthony Spittle sat out the rest of the match.
“Guys weren’t playing well enough out there. Luckily we have lots of depth so we were able to put in Conor Hughes and Cole Reinholm who can go out there and hit .400 for us,” Speraw said of the lineup change.
The 2nd to 4th set of the match had a lot of young faces on the court for UCI as Coach Speraw went with freshman outside hitter and Kevin Wynne’s younger brother, red shirt Freshman setter Ian Wynne for most of the final three sets.
Although the ‘Eaters lost the game, the opportunity for UCI’s young players to get playing time proved to be valuable.
“Ian did a nice job. Connor has consistently done a great job off the bench. They have a bright future,” Coach Speraw said. “We have the depth to put them out there and compete.
The three straight losses make the Anteaters’ bid at a repeat championship an uphill battle. They return to action on Tuesday Jan. 26 in Crawford Court as they match up against Princeton.