Quarterly Quells: UCI Off to Semis
The match between UC Irvine and UCLA was more than a game – it was war. The Anteaters came out alive after dismantling UCLA 3-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinal on April 21. UCLA’s loss concludes coach Al Scates’ 50-year tenure as the Bruins’ head coach who produced 33 Olympians, 78 All-Americans, and a 1,239-290 overall record. Irvine head coach Jon Speraw used to play for Scates back at UCLA and worked with him as an assistant coach.
“It’s a tough moment for me,” Speraw said on defeating his former mentor. “But I was grateful that he was gracious as he was.”
Senior Carson Clark had a solid performance, crushing 14 kills and scoring three service aces. Junior Kevin Tillie was held to two kills the last time he played against UCLA, but on Saturday night he broke out with 20. Sophomore Scoot Kevorken had a solid performance defensively, nabbing two blocks and five block assists. The Anteaters are now 22-5 this season and will play against USC this Thursday, April 26 at 7:30pm in the Galen Center.
Junior Chris Austin got the offense running in the first set, delivering 11 assists. The Bruins had a difficult time on the defensive end, unable to read Austin’s passes. The junior took control of the game at ease, setting up senior Carson Clark and junior Kevin Tillie for four kills each. The last time the two teams met up, Tillie was held to just two kills throughout the match. On Saturday night he knocked down a total 20 kills. The Bruins had no answer for Irvine’s momentum as the Anteaters outhit the Bruins with a monstrous .579 to their .100 as they took the first set 25-14.
“He’s [Chris Austin] coming in a real crucial player for us this year,” Speraw said. “He comes in and keeps our offense at a high rate. He is still trying to work out the kinks of how he’s going to get the ball and still get us the victories.”
The Bruins forced Irvine to play keep-up in the second set as they managed to maintain a tight lead through the match. UCLA did manage to make key blocks to extend their lead, but hitting errors gave Irvine hope to stay in the game. The Bruins managed to take a 24-22 lead after a kill, but a service error gave Irvine a chance to steal the game. Unfortunately, Kevorken served into the net to hand UCLA their first and only set point.
Carson Clark had a phenomenal third set, pounding down six kills in a dominant run. Irvine pulled away after Clark made a kill with his left hand to give UCI a 21-15 lead. Austin set up Tillie for the kill to take the second set 25-16.
“We passed the ball significantly better than the last time we played,” Speraw said. “That allowed us to hit at a very high rate. The offense did a nice job tonight.”
Kevin Tillie made a monster kill in the fourth set to give UCI a comfortable 15-10 lead, but the Bruins clawed their way to narrow the gap 22-19. With the score at 23-20, Kevin Tillie commited a service error to give UCLA a chance to close the match. However, the Bruins commited a service error themselves and Tillie spiked down the ball to seal the match.
“It was really fun to win that game,” Tillie said. “We had a lot of energy in that game. It was personally for me a tough night, I think as a team also. We started working on our game plan all week and it was a good comeback.”