STREAK: Seven consecutive wins for Anteaters lead up to showdown with BYU for no. 1 ranking.
UC Irvine’s no. 1 ranked men’s volleyball team extended its win streak on Thursday night in the Bren Events Center to seven after taking no. 15 UC Santa Barbara in four (20-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-22).
With his second double-double of the year, senior Kevin Tillie posted 14 kills and 16 digs. Tillie also led the ’Eaters with four block assists while adding two aces. Junior Jeremy Dejino put up an impressive 16 team-high kills with eight digs, three blocks and an ace. Daniel Stork dealt 49 assists while outside Connor Hughes added 11 kills. Middle Scott Kevorken led the middles with six kills.
After a 3-0 finish in their first meeting on Jan. 30, the Gauchos were out for revenge and began the first set ahead 9-7. Unable to maintain control of the lead, the ’Eaters made it an even 13-13 on a dual Dejino and Kevorken block. UCSB answered by tying it once again at 15-15 and mounted a 4-1 run for a 19-16 lead. After a UCI timeout, the Gauchos would take the first set 25-20 on a serving error by Chris Austin.
While a set behind, Irvine quickly stepped up and hit for a collective .358 in the remaining three frames to the Gauchos’ .185 clip.
Santa Barbara took another early lead in the second at 7-4, but the ’Eaters clawed their way to tie it at seven all. After trading points, the Gauchos recorded a three-point rally for a 14-11 advantage. The ’Eaters caught fire and answered by outscoring Santa Barbara 7-1. Irvine remained in control and took the second set, their first of the night, at 25-19.
Unlike the first two frames, the ’Eaters took a 5-1 lead in the third after back-to-back kills by Jason Agopian and Dejino. With an eight-point advantage at one point, the Gauchos came within two at 19-17 and within one at 22-12. The ’Eaters were able to interrupt the Gaucho’s momentum and UCI took a 2-1 lead after a 25-21 finish.
In the fourth and final frame, the Gauchos jumped out to an 8-4 lead before the ’Eaters tallied four consecutive points for a one-point advantage at 11-10. After trading points, Santa Barbara led by one at 14-13 before a Dejino kill knotted it up. With a 17-14 lead, Irvine solidified the victory on an off-speed roll shot from Dejino for a 25-22 finish and a 3-1 win.
Irvine extended its seven-game win streak to eight after taking UC San Diego in three on Feb. 16 in La Jolla, California.
The ’Eaters, now 12-3 overall after the win over UCSD, maintain their no. 1 ranking and currently share the prestigious spot with BYU (9-3) as of Feb. 11. BYU’s three losses have come to no. 13 Lewis, no. 7 Long Beach State and no. 5 Pepperdine. UCI has fallen to USC, California Baptist and BYU. The ’Eaters and the Brigham Young Cougars will face off on March 1 at the Bren Events Center.
Irvine begins a four-game stretch at home with Hawai’i on Feb. 18 and 19, followed by California Baptist on the 17th and capped off by the match-up between the two mo. 1 ranked teams.