Having defeated Northeastern in their home opener on the previous night, head coach Ashlie Hain knew that her team’s weekend was far from over as they were set to face two Pac 12 teams in Washington State and Cal on Saturday.
With both matches being resolved in the fourth set, the UC Irvine women’s volleyball team (2-4) were unable to come away with a victory and would go on to drop both games in the last day of the LBSU/UCI Minuzo Invitational. Coach Hain credits both losses to her team’s inability to focus on implementing what was worked on during practice.
“I think that we at times go away from the game plan. We’re a young team so I think that that is a part of just maturing, settling in, and executing the game plan,” said Hain, “When we’re pushed a little bit we haven’t learned to fight back yet […] and I think that’s a sign of lack of maturity, just being confident in your training and the system.”
After falling to Washington State in a morning matchup at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, the ‘Eaters hosted the Cal Golden Bears (4-1) where they lost 3-1 (25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 22-25). The ‘Eaters were unable to contain the Golden Bears’ momentum and refrain from committing errors of their own, ultimately costing them the final two sets.
“We have to control our errors,” said Hain, “We had some really bad calls at the end […] but Cal was playing well and was forcing us into those errors.”
Leading the ‘Eaters in kills were the duo of sophomore Harlee Kekauoha and freshman Loryn Carter, who both registered 11 each. For the Golden Bears, junior outside hitter Christine Alftin notched a double-double of 17 kills and 10 digs. Cal would ultimately win the match up front, out-blocking the ‘Eaters 12-6.
In the first set, the ‘Eaters took control of an early 10-2 lead on a five point run capped by back to back blocks by junior Danielle Geiger. The ‘Eaters never let the Golden Bears get within striking range of the lead and would cruise to a 25-17 set win after sophomore middle blocker Idara Akpakpa sealed things with a kill. Akpakpa hit a red hot .833 clip and lead the ‘Eaters with five kills to help the ‘Eaters get the opening set point.
Cal answered back with a dominant showing in the second set of play as they outhit the ‘Eaters .306 to .175. Demonstrating their presence and physicality that coach had anticipated, the Golden Bears garnered six blocks in the second set, and tied things up by winning 25-19.
A closely contested third set, that had 13 tie scores and six lead changes, would go to Cal as they narrowly edged the ‘Eaters by scoring the last two points and earn the 25-23 victory.
Irvine kept up with Cal in the fourth set, not allowing the match to get out of reach as they were able to tie the score 11 times. It was not until the game was knotted up at 19 where Cal would have a late surge and close the match on a 7-2 run to earn the 25-22 victory and hand the ‘Eaters their fourth loss of the season.
The ‘Eaters will embark in an important stretch of the season as they will be on the road to end the nonconference slate and compete in both the USD Invitational and the Roadrunner Classic in Bakersfield.
“[The stretch] is important. When I set out the schedule it was for us to grow and learn and the best way to that is through losses. ” said Hain, “We’re learning a lot about ourselves and playing [more] physical teams and that’s what I wanted out of it. Right now it’s not about winning but it’s about the process and learning what we’re capable of and what we need to do for the future.”
Following the conclusion of the preseason, the ‘Eaters will return to the Bren to begin conference play against CSUN and Long Beach State on the weekend of September 22nd – 24th with both games starting at 7 p.m.