No. 4 ranked UCI men’s volleyball returned to the Bren to face USC for the first time since the Trojan’s handed them their second loss of the year. The ‘Eaters were able to avenge their loss to the Trojans Saturday night. Since the loss on Jan. 23 the ‘Eaters have won four in a row, improving their record to 10-2. UCI managed to extend their win-streak to five after outlasting the Trojans in the fifth set (25-20,25-27,19-25, 25-23, 15-10). USC moved into the national rankings this week at No. 15 after beating Princeton to make their record 6-3, but they could not find success against senior opposite Karl Apfelbach, who posted a season-high 19 kills. Senior outside hitter Aaron Koubi also posted a season-high 14 kills and nine digs.
The ‘Eaters struck first, but could not manage to pull away. It was not until Koubi managed a kill on a setup from senior setter Dante Chakravorti, tying the game at 12, that UCI was able to establish momentum and take the lead. The ‘Eaters went on a four-point run that was punctuated with another kill set up by Chakravorti, but this time finished by Apfelbach. UCI managed to keep the flustered Trojans at bay, who struggled, surrendering their final point of the set to a service error.
The second set started with USC striking first, but the ‘Eaters took control, quickly establishing an 8-3 lead. The ‘Eaters continued to hold a comfortable lead until a USC kill and a UCI attack error tied the score at 19-19. USC carried the momentum to a 25-27 win.
The Trojans carried the momentum from the end of the second set and took a decisive 11-6 lead to start the third set. UCI struggled, seeming to have no answers as five straight UCI erros gave the Trojans a seven point lead. Aaron Koubi along with the other ‘Eaters were not able to claw their way back into the set. Koubi gave his best effort, even falling into two courtside seats to keep a ball in play. UCI could not outscore the Trojans and make up for the deficit. They surrendered the third set, and with their backs to the wall, the Trojans were only one set away from beating the ‘Eaters for the second time this year.
UCI was able to take a strong lead early on after three errors from the Trojans put them up 13-9. The ‘Eaters looked determined to not fall victim to USC again, going up 17-10 after Apfelbach’s two kills and a solo block. The ‘Eaters lost the lead as USC came back to tie the game 22-22. Junior middle blocker Scott Stradick maintanied composure and was able put UCI in position to win with a cross net kill. Apfelbach put away the set after a UCI service error gave the Trojans 23, trailing UCI’s 25.
Going into the final set UCI was able to outlast the Trojans after jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead. Stadick and Apfelbach accounted for four of those initial points. The ‘Eaters locked down their play and burst out to a decisive 10-4 lead.The match came to a close after kills from sophomore outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller and Apfelbach.
The ‘Eaters outperformed the Trojans with 61 assists and 65 kills. After playing four games in a week, the ‘Eaters have a week until their next game. “We are going to take some time to recover, and prepare for San Diego,” Chakravorti commented on how they would spend the time they have off. The ‘Eaters host UCSD Thursday, Feb. 14. UCI is 3-0 at home this year and can improve their win-streak to six games with a win over the Tritons who is currently at 5-6.