‘Eaters Defeat the Tritons

The UCI men’s volleyball team came out strong and fully energized  as they took on the UC San Diego Tritons at the Bren Events Center last Friday, Jan. 31. Seniors Jeremy Dejno and Scott Kevorken led the team to a 3-0 victory over the Tritons, giving the ’Eaters a 3-4 record in the MPSF and 7-5 record in their overall season.

The ’Eaters dominated the first set, maintaining the lead the entire time. Kevorken gave the ’Eaters a strong start with three aces to give the ’Eaters a quick lead. With crucial kills from Dejno and digs from junior, Zack La Cavera, the ’Eaters then took an 8-2 lead. After a brief time-out by San Diego, the ’Eaters returned to the court with intent to win the set. The Anteaters had a comfortable 20-9 lead, forcing the Tritons to take another time-out. ’Eaters would soon win the set 25-11 with most of UC San Diego’s points coming from service errors by the Anteaters.

“I just felt poised,” Dejno said. “I’ve been working on some stuff, kind of changing the way I attack. I’m just trying to play consistent, get one step ahead in the game.”

The second set proved to be a bit trickier for the ’Eaters. Unlike the first set, there were three lead changes in the second set. The ’Eaters started the set trailing the Tritons after a service error. Dejno scored back-to-back points with a crucial kill and block to give the ’Eaters a 12-10 lead. Tritons rallied back to regain a 15-14 lead. Both teams battled to reclaim the lead with seniors, Collin Mehring and Daniel Stork putting up major points with blocks for UCI. The Anteaters claimed the second set 25-20.

“I felt like I went out tonight with a goal of blocking,” Mehring said. “Before the game, I knew my blocking wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be in previous matches, so I was very conscious of hand position and I feel like it paid off tonight.”

With the ‘Eaters up 2-0, the third set would ice the win. Even as crucial as this set was, the Anteaters came out looking poised and confident, and it definitely reflected in their play. Just as they did in the first set, the ’Eaters dominated and kept the lead throughout the set. They went on a 9-0 run with combined efforts from Dejno, Kevorken, Mehring and La Cavera, giving them a 22-9 lead over the Tritons. The ’Eaters eventually won the set, 25-12 with Kevorken scoring the match point.

“I think the thing to take away from tonight’s game is that we’re preparing for a style of play that we’re chasing and to complete our competitive objective which is to win a national championship,” head Coach David Kniffin said.

Dejno ended the night with a match-high of 15 kills and a record-high of five block assists. La Cavera had a match-high of seven digs and  nine kills. Mehring had five crucial blocks, giving the ’Eaters a strong presence at the net. Kevorken marked four blocks and three aces to contribute to Anteater points. Stork made his teammates look good with 29 set assists and four digs to add of his own. Junior Michael Brinkley added six digs to help the ’Eaters gain a victory.

The Anteaters returned to the Bren the following day, Saturday, Feb. 1, hosting the No. 1 UCLA Bruins in their seventh conference game of the season. The ’Eaters played on UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 27 and fell to the Bruins 3-0. The rematch on UCI’s home court was sure to be intense. Unfortunately, the ’Eaters did not come out as victorious as they did the night before against the Tritons. The Anteaters fell to the Bruins 3-1, ending the sets 25-19, 25-21, 20-25, and 25-18.

Led by Hughes, who marked 13 kills, seven digs and three aces, the ’Eaters trailed a close game against the Bruins. La Cavera ended the match with 12 kills, six digs and two aces, while Scott Kevorken posted seven kills and four block assists. Sophomore outside hitter Kyle Russellgot off the bench, marking six kills in three sets, while Michael Saeta recorded 28 set assists, and Brinkley added seven digs to the match.

It was a win-lose weekend for the Anteaters. Hopefully the ’Eaters will prove to be victorious in their next conference game against Pacific University on Friday, Feb. 7.