Having split both games this week in conference play, UC Irvine women’s volleyball coach Ashlie Hain still sees areas of improvement and changes in rotation for her bunch in order to get to the caliber of play she believes her team can achieve.
“We’ve gone through a couple of different lineups [this season] but I think that, on a whole, we are doing things consistently even when it’s different personnel,” said Hain.
The ‘Eaters now stand at a 6-12 overall record and have begun conference competition at 1-3. UCI was voted to place fourth in the preseason polls but currently are at the bottom tier of the conference after two weeks. With a three game road trip scheduled for the ‘Eaters, coach Hain knows that it will be a week by week process for her team to find rhythm with each other and adapt to the different styles of play that each games has to offer.
“Offensively we have to be smarter with our shot selection. We move around hitters, that’s why we have gotten better, but ultimately those same people end up being accountable at the end [of tightly contested sets],” said Hain, “Being consistent is what we need to work at, how to approach a game and getting the mentality to go after it point after point and just being accountable.”
Cal State Fullerton
Thursday night’s contest at Titan Gym against Orange County rival Cal State Fullerton (6-11, 1-2) went in favor for the ‘Eaters as they were able to sweep the Titans (25-23, 25-22, 25-9) to win their first conference game of the season.
Sophomore outside hitter Haley DeSales led the ‘Eaters with 11 kills on a .556 clip. In a change to the routine lineup, senior setter Shelley Anderson contributed with 32 set assists to help the ‘Eaters outhit the Titans .337-.102 for the game.
The opening set proved to be the most competitive one as the ‘Eaters would have to rally down 18-15 to earn the victory. Sophomore Harlee Kekauoha shined for the ‘Eaters as she hit a perfect 1.000 clip to accumulate five kills. The ‘Eaters would take the lead at 23-21 before Anderson would end the set with a kill of her own.
UCI would benefit from a 5-1 run to once again come back from a Titan lead in the second set to grab the 23-20 advantage. The set would conclude with a DeSales kill and a CSUF service error and awarded the ‘Eaters the 25-22 victory.
In the third set, the ‘Eaters cruised to a dominant 25-9 win over the Titans to complete their sweep and get back in the win column after two losses last week.
Back at home, the ‘Eaters had a valuable chance to avenge both losses and become level in conference play but failed in their game Saturday night against the Aggies (8-8, 1-2).
Kekauoha paced the ‘Eaters with 12 kills and three service aces in the loss against the Aggies (17-25, 25-17, 22-25, 26-28). Junior libero Luna Tsujimoto contributed with a match-high 20 digs and five assists. In the end it was the ‘Eaters poor hitting that cost them the match as they were outhit .238-.176 by UC Davis.
UCI hit their worst percentage in a set all season in the opener against the Aggies as they hit an abysmal -.029 clip. The Aggies hit well with a .308 percentage and used a 7-1 run to close the set to win 24-17.
Irvine turned the table in the second set at they would garner the 24-17 victory and outhit the Aggies handsomely .269-.037. The ‘Eaters used an 11-2 run to gain the lead and take control of the set. DeSales would end the set with a kill and knot things up heading into the third set of play.
UC Davis went on an 8-2 run in the middle of the third set to earn a 19-14 lead. Before the Aggies would ultimately win the set, the ‘Eaters scratched off the lead at set point to just two points but an Aggie kill would end the comeback attempt and put them in position to win the match in the fourth.
A marathon of a fourth set would begin with the ‘Eaters grabbing a 16-12 lead. With a chance to close out the match with a set win, the Aggies responded with a 6-0 spurt and take a 19-17 advantage. The Aggies eventually had set point at 24-22 but the ‘Eaters would rally to tie the score once more. After a back and forth exchange of points, the Aggies would prevail with back-to-back kills and win the set 28-26.
The ‘Eaters will resume competition on Thursday as they face Cal Poly on the road for a 7:00 p.m. first set time.