UCI 3, LBSU 1
Rivalries either bring out the best or worst in teams. For the Anteaters, Long Beach State brought out UCI’s best performance of the season thus far.
The Anteaters upset the 49ers in four sets: 25-20, 25-23, 23-25 and 25-23 on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Junior Carson Clark led all players with 24 kills, senior Jordan DuFault added another 17, and senior setter Anthony Spittle handed out 46 helpers.
UC Irvine upended the No. 3 team in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation due to a stellar defensive performance.
The Anteaters out-dug the 49ers, 42 to 35. Sophomore libero Will Montgomery, who made his first start of the season, recorded a match-high of 11 digs.
The Anteaters played airtight defense as LBSU hit .194 for the game, which included UCI holding the 49ers to a .094 hitting percentage in the first set.
After winning the first two sets, the Anteaters were in position to sweep the heated rival. Both the 49ers and Anteaters were tied at 19 apiece in the late stages of third game. But a UCI service error and two attack errors gave LBSU a 24-22 advantage and a third set victory.
In the fourth set, Kevin Carroll’s lone kill of the match sealed the upset victory over the 49ers.
UCI 3, CSUN 0
The Anteaters took care of business with ease on Friday, Feb. 18.
Clark recorded 15 kills and DuFault added another 10 as they led the Anteaters to a three-set victory (25-21, 25-17, 25-17) over the Cal State Northridge Matadors. Spittle dished out 40 assists in the victory.
Defense proved key for the Anteaters. In the first set, the Anteaters held the Matadors to a .156 killing percentage. It was the second set that saw the ’Eaters best defensive performance, holding the matadors to a .120 kill percentage and limiting them to seven kills in the second game.
In previous games, teams have taken advantage of the holes in UCI’s frontline defense. However, against the Matadors, freshman middle blocker Scott Kevorken and outside hitter Kevin Carroll were there to seal off any potential holes that the Matadors might exploit. The ’Eaters recorded seven total team blocks and got their outstretched paws on many more balls.
“Kevin Carroll is becoming a better middle blocker. He has always been good from the service line, he has always been good offensively, but he is starting to get better at the net,” Head Coach John Speraw said. “Scott Kevorken is starting to get better. He has become a good read blocker and he is scoring really well from the service line.”
Credit also has to be given to Montgomery, who recorded six digs in the win against CSUN. Montgomery’s return to the lineup has stabilized the backline and has been another reason why the defense is playing so well.
“Will Montgomery has come back and been cleared to played and that’s made a difference,” Speraw said. “He’s more experienced and he communicates a little bit more, so it has been more smooth and controlled in the backcourt.”
As well as the defense played, the ’Eaters’ offense was as equally as impressive. The ’Eaters put on an aerial display and an ability to violently hammer the ball that had not been seen since UCI last won the championship in 2009.
In the first set, the Anteaters hit for a pedestrian .286, but the offense gained momentum as the game wore on. In the second game, the ’Eaters converted .464 of their killing opportunities and in the third frame the team amassed a .565 percentage.
The Anteaters have won two straight matches for the first time since the early part of January. The key for the ’Eaters is to build off these wins and carry the momentum to their matches against the University of Hawaii on Feb. 21 and 22.
With the two wins against Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, the Anteaters even their conference record to 5-5 and their overall record to 8-8.