No. 6 UC Irvine men’s volleyball (7-1) went three for three in their two-day stay in Phoenix, Arizona, picking up victories over NJIT (0-7), Benedictine (3-1) and host No.12 Grand Canyon (6-2) at Antelope Gymnasium to extend their win streak to four.
After their last three-set victory coming at home against USC, the ‘Eaters brought the broomstick back out to complete their third sweep of the year, this time against NJIT with a dominant 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-21) victory Friday to kick off their weekend.
Sophomore middle blocker Scott Stadick was locked in, bringing down a match-high nine kills while getting a hand in seven of UCI’s nine blocks on the night.
OCC transfer JB Kam, who has been a pleasant revelation for the ‘Eaters, hit an errorless .600 by way of registering six kills in 10 tries against the Highlanders. The 6’3’’ outside hitter has started all of the matches that he has seen action in and has registered four kills or more in each.
Junior Logan Zotovich split time with fellow third year setter Dante Chakravorti and reached a new career-high with 18 set assists to go along with three kills in three tries.
UCI returned to Antelope Gymnasium Saturday for an early 10 a.m. matchup against Benedictine of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC). After dropping the first set, the ‘Eaters took the next three for a 3-1 decision.
Later that day, UCI was tested against host No. 12 Grand Canyon University, pulling off a 3-2 (22-25, 25-17, 17-25, 25-19, 15-13) victory by a hair.
The Antelopes took a closely contested first set in which neither team lead by more than two for the vast majority of the period. Things turned in favor of GCU when they rolled out with a blazing four-kill run that placed them at set point, 24-20. A kill from senior outside hitter Aaron Koubi and a double block from Kam and sophomore middle blocker Matthew Younggren got the ‘Eaters within two but a subsequent serving error would hand GCU the early 1-0 advantage.
The ‘Eaters responded with a furious 7-3 run capped on a Stadick kill to get up ahead in the second. They would maintain the lead en route to a 25-17 second set victory on kills from Koubi and Younggren to even out the match, 1-1.
GCU’s senior outside hitter Shalev Saada put up nine of his 20 kills for the evening in the third alone to set the tone for the Antelopes to claim a 2-1 edge. Saada struck down two in a row early to get GCU up 5-4 and would later help extend the lead to 15-10. It was a Saada kill and a UCI attacking error that would end the set, 25-17.
In the potential game-ending fourth, junior opposite Karl Apfelbach fired two consecutive kills from Chakravorti to take a 11-7 lead. Apfelbach would later spark another run with a kill before teaming up for a double block with Stadick; a spike from Stadick would allow the ‘Eaters to breathe a bit with a 15-11 lead.
GCU came as close as two, 18-16, but UCI would hold the Antelope off as a Stadick kill sent the game into the fifth, 25-19.
The determining set closed out as nerve-wracking as it had started with both teams clawing for a lead more than two. Knotted at 12 apiece. The first crack came on GCU’s end of the net as an attacking error put the ‘Eaters up by one. Apfelbach then came in the clutch, sending over an ace to get the ‘Eaters to match point.
With one point away, UCI committed an attacking error, but the thrilling finish would cap off with a kill from Koubi to allow the ‘Eaters to slip through with the narrow victory.
Apfelbach and Koubi paced the team’s offense with 17 and 16 kills respectively. Stadick also hit double digits in strikes with 10 to go with six total blocks.
Kam bested his .600 hitting mark against NJIT with another errorless hitting performance at .667. He logged another four or more kill outing on nine swings.
UCI will be back in Irvine Wednesday when they face Concordia. First serve will be at 7 p.m.