UCI 1, STAN 3
In the last four matches, UC Irvine men’s volleyball defeated Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge and Hawaii twice. In those four contests, the 49ers were the only team with a winning record.
The ’Eaters put their four-match winning streak to the test when they welcomed No. 3 Stanford on March 4. However, the Cardinal caught the ’Eaters on cruise control as they defeated the UCI in four sets: 23-25, 20-25, 25-20 and 23-25.
“Both teams hit really well, but we just didn’t hit well in one rotation,” Head Coach John Speraw said. “We will get in the gym and see if we can get better, because it is about improving.”
Senior outside hitter Cory Yoder led the team with 16 kills, while Carson Clark added 16 and Jordan DuFault finished with 11. Junior middle blocker Dan McDonnell recorded a career-high of 10 kills. Senior Anthony Spittle tallied 49 assists in the loss.
Volleyball is a game about momentum and runs. Though both teams went on their runs, it was Stanford that seized momentum when it mattered most.
After dropping the first two sets, the Anteaters looked dead in the water. However, in the third set, the Anteaters came out with the offensive willpower and the defensive intensity that was missing in the first two games.
“[Stanford] played some great defense in games one and two,” Speraw said. “We played better defense in game three but we just could not side-out in one particular rotation.”
The ’Eaters started the third set on a 7-3 run and found their largest lead at 19-12 after Stanford’s Brad Lawson missed wide on a kill attempt. After the Anteaters built a seven-point lead, the Cardinal closed the deficit to two points. With a combination of two Clark kills and a Yoder block and kill, UCI hung on to a third set victory.
In the fourth set, the Anteaters started out with all the momentum, jumping out to a commanding 16-10 lead. The Cardinal showed their resolve, as they battled back and waited to take the lead when it really mattered at 24-23. After capturing the lead for the first time, Stanford’s Lawson recorded a kill for match point.
Defense was key for the Cardinal. Stanford misdirected 10 Anteater kill attempts and blocked seven balls. They also recorded 51 kills. Stanford’s Erik Shoji proved to be kryptonite for Clark, DuFault and Yoder, as he notched 16 digs, many coming against these three Anteaters.
The Cardinal showed their offensive firepower as they hit .424 in game one, .517 in game two and .500 in game four. In the third set, which Stanford lost, the Anteaters held them in check, converting .205 of hitting opportunities.
UCI 3, UOP 0
After dropping the match against Stanford, the Anteaters bounced back with a sweep of the Pacific Tigers (25-23, 25-23 and 25-26).
Yoder led the team with 14 kills, Clark added 13, DuFault finished with 12 and middle blockers Kevin Carroll and Scott Kevorken notched six apiece. Spittle handed out 46 helpers.
The Anteaters did work on the offensive end. UCI’s hitting percentage improved as the game wore on. In the first set, the ’Eaters converted .378 of their killing opportunities and in the second set they hit .400. In the third set, UCI had a .652 hitting percentage and for the game they hit .453.
On defense, the Anteaters put together a solid performance. For the game, the ’Eaters held the Tigers to a .326 hitting percentage. UCI dug 37 balls, misdirected 11 Pacific kill attempts and recorded 6.5 blocks.
With the win against the Tigers, the Anteaters finished 5-1 in their six-game home stand. The Anteaters go to 11-9 overall and 8-6 in MPSF action.
The ’Eaters now travel to Pepperdine on March 10, USC on March 12, and UCLA on March 24. After three straight road matches, the Anteaters return to the Bren on March 26 against the Ohio State Buckeyes, in a re-match of the 2009 NCAA Tournament semifinals.