Russel Kwok | Photography Intern
Sporting pink ribbons in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, UC Irvine women’s volleyball team defeated their cross-town rivals Cal State Fullerton within four (22-25, 25-17, 25-11, 25-18) to win a season high fifth straight last Friday at the Bren Events Center.
Sophomore Cassidy Pickrell had a tremendous outing for the evening, tying a career-high of 25 kills while clocking in a remarkable .377 hitting percentage. Coincidentally, her previous 25-kill performance also came at the expense of the Titans last year, where she shot at a deadly accurate .447 clip to lead the Anteaters to victory in a five-set match. Senior Allison Lee was impressive from the service line, hitting four aces to set a career single-match high in addition to contributing 11 kills and 13 digs. Leading the team in hitting percentage was junior Ella Rosenfield, who converted six of 13 attempts without committing any errors.
UC Irvine also matched its offensive output by outmaneuvering its Orange County counterparts at the net, eclipsing CSUF 11-3 in total team blocks. Spearheading the Anteater defense was sophomore Shelley Anderson, who totaled a career high eight total blocks and 11 digs. Anderson helped coordinate the offense with 39 assists, while sophomore libero, Arden Davis, had a team high 15 digs. Senior middle blocker, Arielle Manz, earned a season-high five block assists and reached a milestone within the UCI career books by holding the tenth most block assists in program history at 224.
Both teams were plagued by errors early on and were unable to secure an advantage until the Titans took a four point lead at 10-6. However the Anteaters soon closed the gap, capitalizing off an attack error by CSUF and kill by Lee to come within one at 11-10. UC Irvine would regain the lead for the first time in the set after an emphatic kill by Pickrell. Both teams appeared to be evenly matched as they continually exchanged points with one another, with neither team able to hold larger than a one point lead. This stalemate was eventually broken by a UCI service error to put CSUF ahead 22-20 and prompted a timeout by the Anteaters. A quick service ace by junior ace, Mackenzi Olsen quickly put the Anteaters down by three out of the timeout. Pickrell had a pair of kills to rally UCI within one at 23-22, but a CSUF timeout and two quick kills would secure the opening set for the Titans.
Despite the set being the first one that the women’s volleyball team have loose within the past two weeks, the Anteaters remained unfazed going into the rest of the match.
“As a team, as a whole, we’ve talked about it,” said sophomore outside hitter, Victoria Dennis. “We just have the maturity to even if we do lose that first set for whatever reason, we can come back out and we can definitely make a change and make a difference in the next three which is what we do.”
In the second, the Anteaters quickly found themselves down 2-6 following a service ace by the Titans and an untimely attack error. CSUF held onto the lead until a kill by Anderson brought UCI to within one and a setting error by Mackenzie Olsen evened the score at 10-10. Following a kill by Lee to carve out a 12-11 lead, the Anteaters would not trail for the remainder of the set. An ace by Lee would cap off a four point run to put UCI up 19-14. Another ace, this time at the hands of Pickrell, sustained the Anteater lead at 21-15. Manz and Dennis teamed up to reject a shot by freshman Ally Forsberg, providing UCI with a seven point cushion. An assertive put-away by Dennis closed out the set to even the match score.
UC Irvine coasted to a decisive victory in the third set, committing only one error and shooting at a .500 clip. Trailing 3-4 at the start, the Anteaters knocked off nine consecutive points to take a demanding 12-4 lead. A dual block by Manz and Lee dashed any hopes of a Titan comeback at 17-6. Yet another ace by Lee escalated the advantage to a near insurmountable 22-8 lead. An attack error by CSUF on set point clinched the set 25-11 for UCI.
Perhaps feeling a sense of urgency after being down 1-2, the Titans made sure to keep the fourth set a much more closely contested affair than the third. With the score even at 9-9, a pair of kills by Lee and Pickrell on top of a CSUF attack error put the Anteaters ahead at 12-9. Anderson would have two crucial blocks back-to-back to extend the lead to 18-12. The Titans found themselves plagued by unforced errors late in the fourth, giving UCI match point 17-24. Pickrell, who had been white hot throughout the night, tipped in the ball at match point to give the Anteaters the win.
Pickrell, who finished the night 27 points, largely attributed her high scoring to her fellow teammates.
“It was definitely a team effort, I can’t give all the credit to myself,” said Pickrell. “If Shelley hadn’t given me a great set, if the defense hadn’t given her a pass, if [the] serve receive line hadn’t given her a pass, there’s no way that anybody could’ve gotten a kill so it was definitely a team effort no matter what.”
In a match that will be broadcasted on ESPN3, UC Irvine women’s volleyball will look to even a score when they host Hawai’i next Friday at the Bren.