By Ashley Duong
Remaining undefeated at home this season, UC Irvine women’s volleyball (15-2, 3-1) secured yet another victory at the Bren last Saturday against CSUN (10-8, 4-2), whom they had previously lost to twice last season.
The match saw Kekauoha leading the team and tying her career high with 22 kills overall, while senior Brianna Montgomery achieved a career high of 10 kills.
“We talked to [Brianna] a little this week about herself and not being wrapped so much up in the scouting report,” head coach Ashlie Hain said. “ I thought she was inside her head a bit, so it was nice to see her just be herself and bang balls and be confident and make smart shots.”
Although the ‘Eaters had slow starts in the first two sets, they came back to win them 25-19, 25-18.
UCI gave an impressive offensive performance, maintaining aggressive play throughout and finishing the first set with a 4-0 run.
Similarly, the ‘Eaters would embark on a 7-point spree in the middle of the second set, keeping a healthy lead the Matadors failed to recover from, due to the 32 kills UCI delivered in the first two sets, 22 of which were executed by juniors Haley DeSales, Idara Akpakpa and Harlee Kekauoha.
Responding to UCI’s aggressive offense, CSUN countered by out-blocking the ‘Eaters 6 to 3 and taking the third set 25-19.
Reflecting on the setback, Kekauoha said that heading into the fourth set, the team needed to recognize that they were “in a slump,” and rectify this by “creating that energy out of nothing.”
Despite the disappointing blow, the ‘Eaters would start the fourth set stronger than any other set of the match, gaining a quick 5-0 lead. Toward the end of the set, the Matadors would make one last attempt to reclaim the set, going on their own 4-point run before succumbing to their own errors and giving the set to the ‘Eaters.
“The first two sets I was really happy with our play,” said coach Hain. “Going into set three I knew they were going to come back better and we just didn’t answer back quick enough as we made some unforced errors and didn’t play good volleyball… I think we started off that 4th set strong and kind of held the lead the whole time so I was pretty confident in our plays.”
The ‘Eaters will hit the road to face CSU Fullerton on Oct. 13 before returning home for their Think Pink match against UC Riverside on Oct. 14.
“This next weekend is going to be about our side and executing the plays we know how to execute over and over again,” said Coach Hain.