UC Irvine 3, UC Santa Barbara 2
After a rough 0-3 start to Big West Conference play, UC Irvine women’s volleyball team was more than ready to pick up its first win of the season and put an end to their three-game losing streak.
Last Friday night, the Anteaters would not be denied, putting on a gutsy performance as they defeated the visiting UCSB Gauchos 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-14, 22-15, 15-9) to earn their first Big West win.
Leading the Anteater offense was third-year Marisa Bubica, who put away a match-high of 19 kills, while fourth-year Allison Lee contributed 13 kills and had a career high of 24 digs. Second-year Shelley Anderson also set a new personal best as she logged 60 assists, while fellow second-year Cassidy Pickrell had a solid showing of her own with 13 kills and 15 digs.
“If we played UCI volleyball like we were saying that we were going to do, and executing our system, we knew we could do this, and we never lost that,” said outside hitter Allison Lee.
UC Santa Barbara led early in the first set, nursing a three-point lead at 10-7 after a kill by first-year Chanel Hoffman. UC Irvine would even the game at 13-13 and led for the second time since the opening point after racking up three consecutive points following a timeout by Santa Barbara at 16-15. Both teams continued trading points with each other until UCSB held the advantage at 24-21. The Anteaters fended off two match points before a kill by UCSB’s Britton Taylor gave them the opening set.
In the second set, the Anteaters roared ahead to an 8-4 lead, prompting an early time-out by the Gauchos. UCSB would come out of the break with four unanswered points to tie the score at 8-8. UC Irvine soon found itself trailing again, until a spectacular off-balance kick-save by Lee brought the Anteaters to within one at 17-18. After dropping the next two points, UC Irvine went off on a five-point run to lead 22-20. The Gauchos would not go down easily, catching up to Irvine 23-23, but an unforced error gave Irvine match point, giving Bubica a chance to put the ball away at the net to even the set score 1-1.
“We just kept talking about getting over the hump and we can do this and [having] the confidence to just play free and not getting tight,” said head coach, Paula Weishoff.
The Anteaters never trailed in the third set, jumping ahead to a 10-4 lead, as senior, Molly Yoder, came through for the Anteaters at the service line. UCSB could not find its footing in the set and UCI coasted to a 25-14 victory to go up 2-1.
It looked like the Anteaters were all but ready to come away with the win as they held a 15-10 lead in the fourth but the Gauchos caught a second wind and soon came back to overtake the Anteaters 20-18 after a kill by third-year, Jaylen Villanueva. Unable to regain the lead, the Anteaters dropped the set 22-25 and founded themselves headed into the decisive set.
Despite being forced into a fifth set, UCI kept its composure and took an early 2-0 lead off a pair of kills by fourth-years, Marisa Bubica and Arielle Manz. Irvine never relinquished the lead and a kill by Lee put the Anteaters up five match points at 14-9. A block by Lee and Manz clinched a much-deserved win for UCI.
As hard fought and overdue as the win was, Coach Weishoff is already looking to the rest of the Big West schedule.
“There’s not one match that’s more important or one point that’s more important. We try and play each point and each match and each game the same way. It is nice to have those victories, those small victories, and we’re going to have a lot of battles this year,” said Coach Weishoff.
UC Irvine 3, Cal Poly 0
The following night at the Bren, the Anteaters picked up their second win in the Big West as they swept Cal Poly 25-23, 25-20 and 25-18.
Cassidy Pickrell led the Anteater offense with 15 kills, with Manz adding 11 kills of her own while shooting at .667 clip alongside three blocks. Arden Davis and Allison Lee combined for 31 digs and Shelly Anderson posted 38 assists.
The teams were neck and neck in the first set, until a tip by Pickrell gave the Anteaters triple match-point 24-21. A bad set between Cal Poly’s setter and middle blocker off a one-handed save by Lee would prove costly to the Mustangs as they fell in the first.
Irvine’s offense caught fire in the second set with the Anteaters cruising to nine-point lead at 20-11 after a kill by Pickrell. The Mustangs mounted a comeback to come within five at 19-24, but it proved too little too late after another put away by Pickrell.
Cal Poly led early in the third set from 11-8 but the Anteaters responded with a four-point run to go up 12-11. Up by three, 18-15, UCI scored five unanswered points including Lee’s third ace of the match to take a commanding 23-15 advantage. A cross-court shot by Pickrell would conclude the match as freshman, Savannah Niemen’s shot sailed wide.