by Christopher Piazza
The No. 5 seed UCI Men’s Volleyball team defeated No. 13 seed Concordia University Irvine Eagles by a score of 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 26-28, 25-23) at the Bren Events Center on Jan. 30.
In the last match of a seven game homestand, the Anteaters (4-3, 0-0) were poised to get back into the win column against cross-town rivals Concordia (5-3, 1-0).
The Anteaters used an equally balanced effort to take down a strong Eagles squad.
“This is probably the best Concordia team they’ve had in a while so we just wanted to play our game, focus on our side of the net, take care of what we can do and play point to point,“ senior JB Kam — with a career-high 17 kills — said.
Early in the first set, the Anteaters found themselves struggling in offense and down 12-7. Concordia utilized quick back row attacks from redshirt senior Raymond Barsemian to catch the Anteater defense off guard. However, senior Scott Stadick responded with three high-powered blocks to tie the score at 15-15, bringing life back to the Anteaters.
Both squads traded points until the score tied at 24-24. After Concordia missed a serve, redshirt sophomore Alexandre Nsakanda delivered a hard jump serve which was overpassed by Concordia leading to a kill by redshirt junior Sean Dennis ending the set.
The second set started with the Anteaters applying more pressure from the service line as well as maintaining a strong discipline on serve receive.
With the score tied at 12-12, a minute long rally had everyone in attendance at the edge of their seats. Redshirt freshman Patrick Vorenkamp — with a career-high 60 assists — chased the ball down to set his hitters and to keep the play alive. Unfortunately, as the ball was being controlled by the Anteaters continuing the rally, a net violation occurred against them resulting in the point going to Concordia. A long Anteater huddle after the play gave them a moment to catch their breaths and move onto the next play.
The Anteaters responded with an offensive attack led by junior Joel Schneidmiller, who ended with a season-high 22 kills and career-high 13 digs. To cap an end to an exciting set, Vorenkamp and Dennis paired up at the net to send a block straight down for the final point.
Hoping to finish off the match in three sets, the Anteaters came out flying to gain a 4-1 lead until a few miscues allowed Concordia to get right back in. Nsakanda, who struggled mightily on offense, was substituted off for sophomore Jonny Bowles. The set was tightly contested. Concordia made two key substitutions which reignited the team’s hopes and gave them a 18-14 lead. The Anteaters continued to claw their way back behind key blocks and kills by Stadick and Bowles respectively. However, Concordia fought off two match points to extend the match to four sets.
The Anteaters knew they had to put that set behind them and look to the next.
“It was more on to the next one. We’re going to keep trusting the process and focusing on the next one,” responded redshirt sophomore AJ Faille — with a career high 15 digs — when asked how the team reacted after the third set.
The Anteaters controlled the pace for the fourth and final set. They never relinquished the lead behind their consistent serving and offensive execution. Bowles added a career-high six kills in his appearance off the bench which showcase the deep talent the Anteaters covet. Concordia threatened to force a fifth set, but Kam and Schneidmiller continued their offensive onslaught to put exclamation marks on a well deserved victory.
Stadick’s 10 blocks ties his season high and extends his streak of six or more blocks to seven matches. This contributed to the 15.0 total blocks for the Anteaters to the 6.5 total blocks by Concordia.
This victory marks the end of a seven game homestand as the Anteaters will embark on a week long road trip. It will be the first time the Anteaters will compete on the road this season.
“We’re excited! We’ve only been home this year, so we’re excited to test ourselves out on the road and get a little travelling. Team trips are always fun to be together and bond with the team!” Stadick said.
The Anteaters played USC on Feb. 1 and will compete in the Outrigger Tournament in Hawaii from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8. They will return home to face UC San Diego on Feb. 15.