Topping all Big West competitors with a 12-1 overall standing prior to the start of regular conference play, the UC Irvine women’s volleyball team has made a grand statement through their fiery start to the 2017 season.
After their last—and sole—preseason loss coming at the hands of Louisville on Sept. 8th, UCI went on a six game win streak, the last five of which were earned in dominant, sweeping fashion.
The ‘Eaters have been lead by a trio of heavy hitting juniors in, Harlee Kekauoha, Haley DeSales, and Idara Akpakpa.
Kekauoha earned her fourth Big West Women’s Volleyball Player of the Week honor after recently leading the team to four straight sweeping victories.
In the first sweep, a home opener against Fresno State, the 6-0 opposite posted 14 kills and season bests in aces and digs with four and 12, respectively.
Kekauoha also paced the ‘Eaters on the next three victories during the UCI/LBSU Invitational, a two-day event held at the Bren Events Center from Sept. 15-16.
Beginning with Montana State on Sept. 15, Kekauoha filled the stat book with nine kills, seven digs, and six assists. She followed that performance up with 10 kills, nine assists, five digs, and two aces against San Francisco later that evening.
Her best hitting outing came against Bakersfield when she racked up a match-high 13 kills in 20 attempts without committing a single error.
By the end of the four-match stretch, Kekauoha averaged 3.83 kills on .348 hitting—just seven errors on 87 attempts—and 2.75 digs.
Back in August, Kekauoha was also named the Most Outstanding Player in the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic, another two day Tournament where the ‘Eaters went undefeated in the field.
As Kekauoha had turned out masterful start to the year, DeSales has also showcased her offensive prowess, currently tying with Kekauoha in kills with 109. DeSales has also done her work on the defensive with 116 digs—second to senior libero Luna Tsujimoto who leads the team with 186—and 12 blocks thus far in the season.
The Burbank Calif. native has also had quite a lot of success from the service line, converting 18 aces to lead the team. Her 0.41 clip is enough to place her at second in the Big West.
DeSales kicked off the year in high fashion, picking up MVP honors after UCI had went 3-0 in their very first three matches of the year at the Molten Classic. DeSales accumulated 27 kills and 30 digs in the tourney.
She was also named to the All-Tournament team during the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic—the same event at which Kekauoha was named Most Oustanding Player—along with Akpakpa.
Akpakpa rounds out the trio of impactful juniors, bringing down 105 kills in non-conference play. Hitting a .369 clip (206 attempts with just 29 errors), she leads the team in striking efficiency. Akpakpa is also ahead of the back in rejections with 28 total blocks.
With their best preseason run in recent years, the ‘Eaters will look to carry their success over to the regular season, which will start with a worthy test against Hawai’i late Friday night (Sept. 23rd) at 10:00pm. UCI will then head to Davis the following Friday (Sept. 29th) before returning to the friendly confines of the Bren Events Center to face Long Beach State on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7:00pm for their home opener.