UC Santa Barbara
In a match that saw two different sets go to overtime, the UC Irvine men’s volleyball needed all five sets to knock off UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday, as the ‘Eaters battled back for the 3-2 win (28-26, 21-25, 29-31, 25-17, 15-9) on the Gauchos’ home floor.
The depth of the ‘Eaters prevailed as 10 different players contributed a kill, led by seniors Tamir Hershko with 14, and Michael Saeta who added 11 with an outstanding hitting percentage of .786 to go with five service aces to sink the No. 12 Gauchos.
Neither side was able to gain a significant advantage in a highly contested first set, as UCSB rallied to tie the score at 24 after two set points for UCI. Freshman middle blocker Matthew Younggren was able to serve up two aces with the score tied at 26 to secure the 28-26 victory.
The Gauchos jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the second frame after capitalizing on ‘Eater errors early. UCI continued to fight back but could not prevent UCSB from pulling away each time they narrowed the score, and eventually surrendered the 25-21 loss after losing three of the final four points.
Attack errors continued to be an issue for UCI into the third set, giving the Gauchos an early lead.
The ‘Eaters clawed back to tie 14-14, and the teams traded points as the action mirrored the first set.
Two more untimely attack errors did the ‘Eaters in as UCSB snatched the set 31-29 to take the 2-1 advantage.
Strong play from junior outside hitter Reid Dominguez, who finished with seven kills, anchored a rejuvenated ‘Eater effort in the fourth set as they climbed to a 15-12 edge midway through. UCI did not relinquish the lead again and clinched the set 25-17 on a kill from senior Andrew Benz to force a deciding fifth set.
With the score tied 5-5, Saeta let loose three kills on a 7-1 spree that put the set and the match out of reach with a final score of 15-9. The ‘Eaters improved to 5-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference while handing the Gauchos (3-1, 0-1) their first loss of the year. UCI traveled to UCLA on the second game of their road trip the following day.
The No. 7-ranked ‘Eaters took a hit on Thursday at the hands of No. 2-ranked UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, falling in straight sets (25-16, 25-18, 25-22) to the powerful Bruins who registered a stout .395 hitting percentage as well as seven service aces.
UCI posted only a modest .216 hitting percentage, and lost the battle of the net where they were outblocked 6.0-2.0.
Saeta was a big contributor again, leading the squad with seven kills, seven digs and a service ace. Junior outside hitters David Parker and Tucker Pikula notched five kills apiece, while senior libero Dillon Hoffman shared the team lead with seven digs.
The Bruins’ freshmen middle blocker Daenan Gyimah led all scorers with a game-high 14 kills at a .737 clip, as UCLA always seemed to have an answer for any momentum gained by the ‘Eaters.
UCI fought back from an early deficit in the first set to take a 10-9 lead, but surrendered six straight points to lose the edge and eventually the set 25-16.
After taking advantage of a slow start from the Bruins in the second set, the ‘Eaters again allowed the home team to make a run, this time four consecutive points to give them a 15-12 lead. The Bruins were able to keep UCI at bay through the length of the set and took a 2-0 set lead thanks to a 25-18 final.
UCLA kept their foot on the gas, opening the third set 3-0 on the way to an 8-3 lead early on.
The ‘Eaters would not go quietly, and kills by Parker and Saeta brought them level at 12. A block by senior Thomas Hodges actually but UCI on top late 18-17, but the Bruins reeled off eight of the next 12 points to take the final set 25-22 and the match.
The ‘Eaters move to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference while UCLA improves to 3-1 and 1-0 in conference play. UCI will travel to La Jolla on January 20th to take on conference foe UC San Diego for the second time in the young season. The ‘Eaters knocked off the Tritons 3-0 in a matchup at Crawford Court on January 5th.