No.4 ranked UCI men’s volleyball team extended their winning streak to eight straight wins after sweeping Stanford Friday night thanks to dominant defense at the net.
Facing Stanford’s Jalen Jasper, one of 2017’s top recruited freshman, the UCI defense was immaculate, recording 14 blocks by 6 different Anteaters as a team. The Anteater’s 14 block performance was the third most in a three set game by any NCAA team this season.
Sophomore middle blocker Scott Stadick, formerly the Big West defensive player of the week, led the team with a season high 10 blocks. Heading into Friday’s game, Stadick’s average of 1.35 blocks per set ranked him third highest in the NCAA this season. Stadick’s 10 blocks were also tied for the most in the Big West this season with UCSB’s Drew Sloane.
Offensively, the Anteaters were led by junior outside hitter Karl Apfelbach’s 12 kills, two aces, and four block assists. Stadick, along with freshman outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller, and senior outside hitter Aaron Koubi, had nine kills each. While junior setter Dante Chakravorti had a season high four block assists, in addition to 36 set assists and six digs. Additionally, sophomore middle blocker Matthew Younggren recorded four block assists, and senior libero David Parker recorded nine digs.
In the first set, the Anteaters jumped to an early 8-2 lead over the Stanford Cardinal led by Stadick’s three kills, two solo blocks, and two block assists,. Though Stanford fought back to make the score 18-9, UCI’s team attack percentage of .421 in the first set were too much for the Cardinal. At match point, Apfelbach sent a kill off a Stanford defender and three rows deep into the crowd to seal a first set victory for UCI.
Up to the second set, Stanford’s standout Jalen Jasper was surprisingly absent.
“It was surprising when he didn’t start,” said Apfelbach, “but when he came in we expected him to do what he does and that’s swing high and get kills and he did that.”
And in the second set, Jasper’s addition to the Stanford lineup became troublesome for the UCI team. After taking the first points of the set, UCI couldn’t take more than a two point lead over the Cardinal in the second set.
“We would go on runs, in the second set, they would manage to come back,” said Karl Apfelbach about the Stanford run. But the team’s six blocks in the second set, coupled with 14 kills, were able to give UCI a second set victory.
In the third set, UCI again took an early, and unrelenting lead. Stadick’s two blocks in the third, coupled with Koubi’s three kills, and Apfelbach’s five kills gave the Anteaters a 25-19 over the Cardinal.
Saturday’s matchup against the second ranked UCLA Bruins will be a true test for the young Anteater team, who lost in a heartbreak to UCLA earlier in the season.
“We have to keep communicating as much as possible tomorrow not to let [UCLA] back in the game,” said Apfelbach.
In their last meeting with the Bruins, UCI took a 2-0 set lead on the Bruins before the Bruins fought back with three straight set victories to take the match 2-3 at home.
“If we can stay tough and play point to point I think we have a very good chance,” said Apfelbach.
UCLA will be coming off a sweep victory over Princeton, in which the Bruins recorded a school record 15 aces, heading into friday’s game. UCI and UCLA are currently tied at 4th for their set win-loss percentage. UCI fans hope Apfelbach’s 4.67 points per set, the second highest in the NCAA this season, along with Stadick’s highlight-reel defense will be enough to break the second ranked UCLA men on Saturday.