The No. 12 UC Irvine Men’s Volleyball team (1-4, 1-0) played against the No. 13 UC San Diego Tritons (1-4, 0-1) and ended the night with a 3-2 victory (25-21, 23-25, 21-25, 25-21, 17-15) at the Bren Events Center on March 11.
The first set started off strong for the Anteaters with a kill from graduate student middle blocker Scott Stadick. Immediately after, junior opposite/outside hitter Jonny Bowles scored an ace from the service line. This was followed by a kill off the block by UCI senior outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller to make the score, 3-1.
Defensively, both teams played well in the beginning of the set — at the net and in the back row. UCSD senior outside hitter Kyle McCauley scooped Irvine’s hits with ease. For the Anteaters, Bowles stepped up defensively with his passing.
The Tritons showed signs of rust with their at-the-net hitting, making several unforced errors. Both pin hitters continuously swung long and out of bounds, which made it easy for Irvine to obtain a prominent lead.
After both teams got into a rhythm, the real hitting began with Schneidmiller for the Anteaters. Schneidmiller scored a strong bic hit, which was followed by his signature deep corner kill. The score was now, 11-6, with the Anteaters leading.
McCauley stepped up for the Tritons and relied on tooling the massive Anteater block. McCauley earned the AVCA All-America First Team award in 2020; he has proven himself to be one of UCSD’s most strategic offensive players and arguably their most reliable back row passer.
Stadick quickly got the ball back for the Anteaters with a power tip in the middle of the court. Irvine targeted McCauley with service pressure, which resulted in him shanking back-to-back passes. Schneidmiller then exploded from the back row with a kill on the bic set after an incredible dig by redshirt freshman outside hitter Cole Gillis. This made the score, 17-13.
The first set concluded with three powerful kills from three different Anteaters. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Patrick Vorenkamp got his first kill of the night. Vorenkamp’s kill was followed by a kill off the block from freshman outside hitter Francesco Sani, who was recently named the Big West Men’s Volleyball Freshman of the Week. The final hit of set one was made by Schneidmiller. This gave UCI the win, 25-21.
Set two began with a missed serve from UCI freshman setter Dylan Zhai, who had already missed a handful of serves in the previous set. UCSD got a quick kill off the Irvine block, which was followed by more tools off the block. Still, the Anteaters got the ball back, which was led by Schneidmiller’s smart shots and Sani’s mighty swings, 4-7.
The Tritons seemed more confident in set two despite losing the previous one. Their blocking pressure made the Anteaters rethink their offense approach. Adjustments were made; UCI started to play smarter with a variety of different swings, including wrist away shots, roll shots and downward attacks on the block.
Schneidmiller and Stadick unleashed their wrath with back-to-back bounces on the 10-foot line, 10-16. Both teams began to ramp up their blocking game and exchanged brutal blocks against one another. However, UCI was unable to pull another win this set due to two hitting errors by Schneidmiller and Bowles. This handed the match to the Tritons, 25-23.
The third set was a tight match after a lineup change for Irvine. Both sides made their fair share of hitting errors — nine for UCSD and five for UCI. However, there were a good number of kills in this set. The third set was won by the Tritons, who had 14 kills this game; Irvine mustered only eight kills and eight blocks. Comparatively, UCSD earned zero blocks, pulling out another victory with a score of 25-21.
With UCSD leading 2-1, the fourth set began with strong momentum for the Tritons. McCauley secured an easy over-on-one kill; this was followed by two aces at the service line, 1-7. The Anteaters slowly began to earn some points through unforced hitting errors from UCSD redshirt sophomore outside hitter Ryan Ka.
UCI gained momentum with Schneidmiller’s strategic shots — one that was cut under the block and another hit from the back row. This strategy gave Irvine the lead, 13-12.
Both teams continued with exchanged kills, but McCauley was roofed by Irvine’s triple block made up of Schneidmiller, Vorenkamp and Sani. The final kill of the set was by Schneidmiller; this gave Irvine the set victory of 25-21 and forced a deciding fifth set.
Set five started off poorly for the Tritons — two back-to-back attack errors made by McCauley and senior opposite hitter Collin Shannon, 2-0. Both teams were neck and neck for the duration of this final set. However, both the Anteaters and Tritons made several unforced hitting errors, the majority of which came from Gillis from the Irvine side.
After a roof by Vorenkamp and a double called on Shannon, the Anteaters took their match victory. They ended the fifth and final set, 17-15.
Throughout the match, points went back-and-forth between the two teams as they exchanged kills. UCSD’s McCauley finished with 14 kills, three aces and two blocks. Ka led the Tritons with 19 kills and 11 digs. For the Anteaters, Schneidmiller led tonight’s scoring with an impressive 28 kills, seven blocks and two aces. Stadick finished with 12 blocks along with nine kills.
The UCI Men’s Volleyball team faced off against the Tritons for a second game in La Jolla, Calif. on March 12. The Tritons beat the Anteaters in five sets.
Gina Johnson is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.