By Leanne Yuen
Extending their win streak to six, UC Irvine women’s volleyball (18-2, 6-1) dominated over the UC Davis Aggies (11-11, 3-6) three sets to one at Crawford Court on Saturday. The victory marks the team’s eighth home win this season, as they remain undefeated on ‘Eater territory.
Junior outside hitter Haley DeSales had a standout performance, leading the team with 19 kills and 25 receives, and finishing the game with 19.5 points. Fellow junior Harlee Kekauoha finished strong with ten kills and match-high two service aces, while setter Ali Koumelis achieved 40 assists out of 96 attempts.
“I think our team played really well today,” DeSales noted. “I think we did a good job of doing what we know how to do, playing our type of volleyball which is staying in the system, spreading the offense around, and taking care of the easy balls.”
The first set saw UC Davis take an early lead, but once the ‘Eaters caught up at six points, there was no going back. Other than a three-point run by UC Davis, the ‘Eaters’ momentum hardly let up and they finished the set with 15 kills, coming on top 25-16.
The dominant second set kicked off with a kill from Kekauoha and a service ace from sophomore middle blocker Makayla Wolfe. From there, the ‘Eaters held onto the lead the entire set, overwhelmingly dominating every statistical category. They totaled another 15 kills in the set while the Aggies managed only seven. Back-to-back kills by DeSales and Kekauoha finished the set at 25-12.
Coming into the third set, the Aggies harbored a newfound determination, and the scoring binges the ‘Eaters had grown accustomed to became a thing of the past. The set saw four tie scores as the Aggies fought hard to extend the match, tallying 16 kills — over double the amount they had accumulated in the first two sets. By the time they were five points ahead, the ‘Eaters began losing steam, and Davis held a solid lead until an attack error by Idara Akpakpa ended the set 25-16.
Determined to close the match, the ‘Eaters learned from their mistakes and made adjustments heading into the fourth set.
“We were just not executing [cleanly] and setting the right people,” said head coach Ashlie Hain. “Once we got in a rhythm offensively, I felt like we got a lot more confident…we started setting away from the block and opening up space for the hitters, and that really helped.”
Even so, the game remained tight as the teams battled through ten tied scores and four lead changes. The score gap widened, however, as Davis increasingly committed attack errors while DeSales and Wolfe went in with five and four kills, respectively. Regaining the confidence from the first two sets, the ‘Eaters were up 24-17 before a Kekauoha kill sealed the match.
On Tuesday, the ‘Eaters face the number one team in the league, the Cal Poly Mustangs. Even though the competition is daunting, Coach Hain knows her team has what it takes. “We’ll battle, because that’s what our team does…and we’ll fight no matter what…This is going to be tough, but I have confidence in my team.”