The UC Irvine Women’s Volleyball team (14-8, 7-5) beat the Cal State Northridge Matadors (4-18, 3-9), 3-2, at the Bren Events Center on Saturday, Oct. 30. After losing a 3-2 match against UCSB the previous night, the Anteaters were prepared to avoid consecutive losses.
The first set began with UCI unprepared for their opponent; they were slow on their feet and miscommunications allowed the Matadors to get kills. Despite this, UCI was only down 7-9.
The ‘Eaters overcame this deficit and went on a 6-1 run with kills from freshman outside hitter Grace Colburn, sophomore outside hitter Joy Umeh and sophomore middle blocker Onye Ofoegbu.
UCI appeared more engaged with improved communication that translated to the scoreboard. In her second game since returning from injury, UCI sophomore setter Caitlin Kikta contributed with three assists during a run that ended with the Anteaters in the lead, 19-15.
After a Northridge service error and a kill from UCI freshman opposite hitter Ellen Veargason, UCI was at set point, 24-21. However, the Matadors scored five consecutive points — four of them being UCI errors — at the end. CSUN won the set 26-24, now leading 1-0.
The second set started strong for the Anteaters with Umeh and Ofoegbu scoring the first four points and sophomore setter Kelly Negron setting them all up. Later, Kikta joined the fun and set up Ofoegbu to help UCI obtain a 9-6 lead.
The Matadors hoped that an Anteater service error would stop their momentum; however, UCI was fierce. The ‘Eaters scored six unanswered points to enjoy a comfortable lead at 15-7. UCI maintained this lead and won the set, 25-20. The match was now tied in sets, 1-1.
The third set began as Umeh made her presence known with an emphatic spike. They traded points, but the Matadors ended out on top, 15-13. However, the Anteaters were more composed; they played at their own pace and waited for the right opportunity to take swings. Behind Umeh, Veargason and freshman libero Carly Richter, UCI took the lead 17-15.
From that point on, there were eight lead changes. A kill by freshman outside hitter Marianna Bertolone gave the Anteaters set point advantage at 28-27; however, the Matadors persevered with two unanswered kills and a UCI error to steal the game. Northridge won the set 30-28; they led in sets 2-1.
With the fourth set beginning, UCI were in fight-or-flight mode as they came out firing to lead 10-2. Consecutive aces from UCI’s freshman outside hitter Emma Spindt, aggressive attacks by Umeh, strategic swings from sophomore outside hitter Carrissa MacDonald and Ofoegbu’s vertical presence defined the set.
The Anteaters never relinquished the lead and closed it out 25-23, forcing a fifth set.
The final set commenced with back-to-back UCI errors, but a Umeh rocket and an Ofoegbu block tied the set at two. Both teams struggled to gain any separation; however, UCI were determined to finish strong when they led 10-9.
Umeh was dominant in the final stretch, getting a kill and joining freshman middle blocker Soana Leaea for a soul-crushing block before sending a final spike to win the match. UCI won the set, 15-9, and the match in sets, 3-2.
Spindt only played in the final two sets, but she was a major spark for the Anteaters in the comeback win.
“I just want to be as supportive to my team as possible and be able to help them in any way, whether that is energy or putting up a good pass,” Spindt said.
Ofoegbu finished with seven blocks and made it a nightmare for Northridge to get the ball over the net.
“It was mostly just the talk and communicating what was going on [on Northridge’s side] and then what we should do to stop them,” Ofoegbu said.
The UCI Anteaters go on the road to take on the UC Riverside Highlanders at the SRC Arena in a Big West matchup on Thursday, Nov. 4.
Angus Wong is a Sports Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.