Despite jumping out to a two set lead against the University of Hawai’i, the UC Irvine men’s volleyball team was unable to capitalize on its lead and fell to the Rainbow Warriors for the second time at the Stan Sheriff Center Saturday evening.
With the loss, the No. 14 Anteaters drop to an overall record of 8-17 and 5-13 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, while the No. 8 Rainbow Warriors improve to 14-9 and 9-9.
Each of the first four stanzas were decided by two points (23-25, 25-27, 26-24, 25-23) before Hawai’i pulled away in the fifth set, 15-11.
Both teams had a strong offensive showing, with UCI hitting for .427 — second best of the season — but UH hit for an even more impressive .475.
UCI had a balanced attack, with four players registering double-digit kills. Junior Michael Saeta, who made the switch from setter to opposite earlier in the season, paced the ‘Eaters with 18 kills and three aces. Junior outside hitter Thomas Hodges and senior outside hitter Kyle Russell each had 16 kills apiece, while senior middle blocker Jason Agopian had a team-high five blocks and hit for a .647 clip on 12 kills and one error in 17 swings. Fellow senior middle blocker Marty Ross was not far behind, logging a .643 hitting percentage after nine kills on 14 attempts and no errors.
UH’s Stijn van Tilburg and Sinisa Zarkovic carried the offensive load for the Rainbow Warriors, as both players combined for 52 of the team’s 79 kills.
Due to the pair of conference losses, the Anteaters (5-13) are two games behind Cal State Northridge (6-12) for the final remaining spot in the MPSF Tournament.
Having now played their last eight games away from home, the Anteaters will cap off their road swing with matches against Cal Baptist (March 30) and USC (April 30) before returning to the Bren Events Center for a pivotal match up against CSUN on April 7.