Santa Barbara Round 1
The No. 3 seed Anteater men defeated the No. 6 seed UC San Diego Tritons in a three-set sweep Thursday and advanced the semifinal match against No. 2 seed Hawaii on Thursday (25 – 18) (25 – 18) (25 – 16).
Junior outside Karl Apfelbach led the Anteaters offensively with 17 kills, two servers aces, two block assists and 19.5 points while shooting .571. Senior outside Aaron Koubi followed with eight kills, two server’s aces, 10 digs and shot .667. Freshman outside Joel Schneidmiller recorded nine kills, 9.5 points and a .412 attack percentage. Sophomore middle Scott Stadick landed eight kills, two digs and two block assists. Freshman middle Austin Wilmot recorded seven kills. Setter Dante Chakravorti directed the offense with two kills, four digs, one solo block and 42 assists.
The Anteaters minimized errors while outshooting the Tritons significantly in every set.
“We have to be pretty aggressive with how we play the game,” said Apfelbach. “Here and there there are some errors, but we can rely on other parts of the game to reverse them.”
In the first set, the Anteaters and Tritons traded points. Neither team took a significant lead until a UCSD service error, followed by a Koubi kill led to a four-point UCI run to make the score 15-12. An Apfelbach kill brought the set to a 24-18 match point, and an Apfelbach-Stadick block gave UCI a set one victory.
Set two was also point for point until a Stadick kill, followed by Koubi’s two consecutive kills gave UCI a 14-13 advantage. Wilmot’s kill gave UCI a 24-18 match point, and Koubi sealed the set victory with a kill.
“I don’t think there’s anything to change in set one and two to have a bigger gap in the score,” Koubi said. “We’re just playing our game.”
UCI came out hot in set three and quickly went on a six-point run highlighted by Apfelbach’s two kills and one server’s ace. The Tritons were unable to regain ground in set three as the Anteaters quickly took the victory. Two consecutive Schneidmiller kills gave UCI a set victory and advanced them to play Hawaii in the Big West semifinals.
Earlier in the season, UCI split two tight matches with the No. 2 seed Hawaii. Since then, Hawaii has gone on to be one of the toughest teams in NCAA volleyball, holding a No. 2 national ranking for much of the year. Though UCI held a higher ranking nationally headed into the Big West Tournament,
Hawaii’s upset victory over the undefeated CSULB 49ers’ boosted them to the No. 2 seed and guaranteed a buy in the tournament.
“I think going into tomorrow against Hawaii, we have to compete point by point,” said Apfelbach. “Who we play doesn’t really matter because we’re a tight team,” Koubi said. “If we compete, we compete hard, even if it’s close games.”
Hawaii Round 2
The No. 2 Hawaii Rainbows defeated the No. 3 UCI Anteaters in an electric four-set match Friday night as UCI was eliminated from the Big West Tournament (16 – 25) (23 -25) (25 – 20) (18 – 25).
“I’m exceptionally proud of the body of work these boys put together this season,” head coach David Kniffin said after the game. “I thought we had it pretty well mapped, and obviously I’m going to go back and look at how we can get better.”
Junior opposite Karl Apfelbach led UCI with 14 kills, and two server’s aces. Sophomore middle Scott Stadick recorded eight kills, one server’s ace, one solo block and four block assists. Freshman outside Joel Schneidmiller added seven kills, three server’s aces and two block assists. Senior outside Aaron Koubi recorded six kills, two server’s aces and three block assists.
Hawaii got off to an early lead in set one and didn’t relent for the remainder of the game. After an Apfelbach ace tied the game at five, Hawaii’s Rado Parapunov went on a offensive attack, topped by two servers aces, which contributed to the Rainbow’s five-point lead. Stadick’s block and kill late in the set gave UCI hope at 15-21, but Hawaii’s defense led to a set one victory.
The teams traded points in the second set, and neither had more than a three-point advantage till three UCI errors gave Hawaii a five-point lead at 18-13. The Anteaters fought back to within one off Koubi, Apfelbach, and Stadick kills but were ultimately defeated by a Hawaii kill to end the set 23-25 in favor of Hawaii. UCI outshot Hawaii .176 to .067 in the second and lost because of untimely errors.
UCI played vengeful in set three, and pulled ahead of Hawaii 12-7 thanks to two consecutive Schneidmiller server’s aces, followed by a Wilmot-Koubi block. Apfelbach and Koubi’s kills brought the game to match point, and Apfelbach sealed a victory with a final kill.
In set four, Hawaii answered scoring six quick points early and taking a 6-0 lead. Hawaii dominated the early fourth offensively, and didn’t give the Anteaters much of a chance to shoot. Led by Parapunov’s 15 kills and four server’s aces on the night, the Rainbows kept an offensive presence over the Anteaters. Though a kill and server’s ace from Apfelbach sparked hope for the Anteaters with the score 17-23 late in the match, a block by Hawaii’s Stijn van Tilburg and Dalton Solbrig killed UCI momentum at match point. At match point, Parapunov landed a solo block to give Hawaii a victory and advance them to a final match.
“I suppose I could be surprised if we got a bid,” said head coach Kniffin. “We’re the only team in the country that hasn’t been swept this season.
Final Notes and Tournament News
No. 1 seeded CSULB swept No. 2 seed Hawaii Saturday night, thanks to CSULB’s All American outside TJ DeFalco’s eight kills.
In a strange turn of events, Hawaii’s loss to Long Beach allowed for UCI to garner a bid to the NCAA championship tournament. The bracket, which includes No. 1 CSULB, No. 2 BYU and UCLA is set to begin May 1 at 8:30 p.m. in UCLA’s home gym.
UCI will play the winner of Ohio State and King State on May 1 in the first official round of the tournament. UCI swept the No. 2 BYU Cougars early in the season at home but has yet to face Ohio, King or Harvard. UCI is looking for their dynasty-cementing fifth NCAA title in a little over a decade.