Shortly after suffering a five-set loss to Marquette, where senior outside hitter Victoria Dennis notched a career high 22 kills, the UC Irvine women’s volleyball team (1-2) were set to face the host team of the USC Baden Invitational in the number seven ranked Women of Troy.
In what was scheduled to be a challenging test in the preseason for the ‘Eaters became more than just a nonconference tuneup: It became a trial to display that UC Irvine’s volleyball program can compete with the best of the country, and they achieved that in dominating fashion.
UCI earned their first victory of the season against USC in three straight sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-22). Dennis once again led the ‘Eaters in kills for the third straight game with 18, posting a .654 clip.
Sophomore outside hitter Haley DeSales brought her game against the Women of Troy as she garnered a career-high 10 kills and match best 10 digs. Sophomore opposite Harlee Kekauoha contributed across the board registering 11 assists, three digs, two kills, and two blocks. Up front, junior middle blocker Danielle Geiger and freshman outside hitter Loryn Carter notched five and four blocks respectively.
Early on, the first set showed to be a battle at the front of the net with USC getting of to a 5-3 start off three blocks. The ‘Eater duo of Geiger and Carter would retaliate and help their team grab a 7-5 lead. After the set would be knotted up at 11 all, the ‘Eaters went back to Geiger and Carter for support up front and a kill by Dennis to earn a 17-15 edge. Following a USC timeout up 20-17, the ‘Eaters would benefit off two Women of Troy service errors and eventually take the opening set.
Following a back and forth start to the second set, USC would go on a three point run off a service ace to give them a 15-12 lead. The Women of Troy would answer back an ‘Eater lead taking run to tie the game up at 19-19. With the score tied at 21 all, USC would continue their mishaps closing sets as they gave up two errors and back to back blocks by DeSales to reward the ‘Eaters two sets to none.
With the thought of a potential upset running through everyone’s minds at the Galen Center, head coach Ashlie Hain’s team knew what was on the brink and they didn’t stop to breathe until the last point.
The ‘Eaters came out swinging in the the third set grabbing a 6-1 lead over the Women of Troy. USC would not let up and eventually overcome deficit to garner a 12-11 advantage. The Women of Troy boosted their lead up to three at 18-15 until a 6-4 run led by Dennis gave the ‘Eaters match point. UCI fended off USC’s last attempt at avoiding the sweep as Dennis would end the match with a kill and complete the upset, three sets to none. The upset served to be the ‘Eaters’ first ever win in program history against USC.
With the conclusion of the USC Baden Invitational, the ‘Eaters will host their first game of the season against Northeastern on September 2nd with a 7:00 p.m. tip-off at the Bren Events Center.