After suffering a 3-0 sweep against the Minnesota Golden Gophers last Friday, the UCI women’s volleyball team (4-5) split a pair of five-set matches against Central Florida State and North Dakota the next day to close out play at the Diet Coke Classic in Minnesota this past weekend.
Following their opening loss to the Golden Gophers (6-2) Friday evening, the Anteaters bounced back with a five-set victory (22-25, 25-20, 15-25, 25-23, 15-9) over Central Florida (5-3) Saturday morning.
Senior middle blocker Ella Rosenfeld helped the Anteaters to a 19-12 advantage in total team blocks, totaling a career high eight block assists and two solo blocks. Junior outside hitter Victoria Dennis spearheaded the Anteater offense with 15 kills while sophomore libero Luna Tsujimoto tied for a match-high 18 digs.
After emerging victorious, the Anteaters endured yet another five-set match, but came up short against North Dakota State (7-3) by the slimmest margins, falling 25-21, 22-25, 25-14, 19-25, 16-14 in the afternoon.
Dennis and freshman opposite Harlee Kekauoha, combined for 35 kills during the match and Tsujimoto shone with a career-high 24 digs.
Although both teams were tied in blocks with 7 apiece, North Dakota State’s offense proved to be the decisive factor, as the Bisons posted a .303 hitting percentage to the Anteater’s .218.
Despite the team’s 4-5 record thus far, the Anteaters have several positives to take away from their challenging start as they prepare for Big West Play.
As the lone senior on the team, Rosenfeld has proven to be a reliable anchor from the middle, and currently sits atop the Big West with a .473 hitting percentage.
In just her third week of collegiate play, freshman opposite Kekauoha has already garnered All-Tournament Team honors at both the Idaho Volleyball Classic and the Diet Coke Classic. Amongst the Anteaters, Kekauoha has recorded a second best 84 kills.
Meanwhile Tsujimoto, a transfer from Ohio State, has proven to be a solid reinforcement to the Anteater’s backcourt, averaging a team high 3.60 digs per set.
With the conclusion of the Diet Coke Classic, the Anteaters have now wrapped up playing their first nine games of the season on the road.
UCI will look to rebound as they return home to Crawford Court and the Bren Center to host LBSU/UCI Mizuno Invitational from September 18-19. The invitational will mark the Anteater’s fourth and final four-team tournament before commencing Big West play.
The Anteaters will endure a gauntlet of formidable NCAA Tournament Teams, with UCLA, Oregon State, and USD scheduled for play.
UCI will kick off its home opener with a 10 am match-up on Friday against No. 17 UCLA at Crawford Hall. The Bruins are currently 6-1 on the year and are riding a five-game win streak.
UCLA is undefeated against UCI in program history, holding a 6-0 record. The last match-up between the two teams took place in 2010, where the Bruins won 3-1.
Following the match up, UCI will have the afternoon to recuperate before taking to the court to face off against Oregon State. Coming off back to back losses against No. 9 BYU last weekend, the Beavers will look to improve upon their 2-6 record.
The Anteaters are 1-2 all-time against the Beavers, with Oregon State claiming a 3-1 win during the two schools’ last encounter in 2012.
Closing out the tournament for the Anteaters will be a noon match-up against No. 18 USD the following Saturday.
After sweeping UC Santa Barbara in a non-conference match-up last weekend, the University of San Diego is 6-3 for the season. UCI leads the series record 22-17 against USD, but the Toreros have won the last 16 meetings.
The Anteaters last played against USD in 2011, falling in straight sets to a team that was also ranked No. 18 at the time.