UCI men’s volleyball hosted Chinese professional team Zhejiang at the Bren Events Center on Thursday in an international exhibition match, ultimately falling 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22).
At the beginning of last season, the Anteaters took on the Shanghai Golden Age, and are establishing a trend of inviting international teams to expose UCI to different cultures and styles of play.
“It just fits with the vision of UC Irvine,” said head coach David Kniffin. “We’re trying to be global leaders in education and trying to expand our global footprint. I know from the chancellor’s office down we’re looking at interacting more with China, and we’ve had teams from Korea here before too.”
The ‘Eaters jumped out to an early lead, winning 6 of the first 7 points en route to a first set victory. Freshmen Matthew Younggren and Scott Stadick saw their first collegiate action, and both remained active at the net registering multiple blocks and kills throughout the match.
Zhejiang roared back to take the second set in which they never trailed, although the ‘Eaters were able to rally to tie it at 15 and again at 20.
Sophomore Grant Friedman also made his Anteater debut, and the team was most successful with him at the service line as he notched four service aces in the match including back-to-back in the second set.
Zhejiang prevailed in a back-and-forth third set which saw seven tie scores capped off by an 8-3 run by the visitors and a 25-20 final.
The fourth set was also highly contested until Zhejiang fired off 6 straight points to turn a 1 point deficit into a 5 point lead and never looked back.
Although the ‘Eaters couldn’t eke out a victory, they seemed to take advantage of the opportunity to play against a professional squad with top-level talent and an unfamiliar methodology.
“Today is all about finding out where we are as we start this odyssey,” said Kniffin. “We know where we want to go and we’ve been there before, so now it’s about orienting ourselves to where we actually are and what obstacles might be ahead of us. I think we’re starting to get a pretty clear picture of that.”