No. 7 UC Irvine Battles Back To Beat No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, 3-2

No. 7 UC Irvine Battles Back To Beat No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, 3-2

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 7 UC Irvine came from behind to beat No. 12 UC Santa Barbara 3-2 (28-26, 21-25, 29-31, 25-17, 15-9) at Rob Gym Wednesday. 

The Anteaters won the last two sets to remain undefeated (5-0, 2-0), while the Gauchos suffered their first loss (3-1, 0-1).

Senior Tamir Hershko led UCI with 14 kills, while senior Michael Saeta hit .786 (11-0-14) and tied his career-high with five aces.

10 different Anteaters recorded a kill, including seven by Reid Dominguez and six by Tucker Pikula off the bench. Senior Thomas Hodges added eight kills and two aces and senior Dillon Hoffman had a match-high 16 digs.

The Gauchos were led in kills by Jacob Delson (14), Hayden Boehle (11) and Keenan Sanders (10).

With the score tied 9-9 in the first set, UCI used a UCSB hitting error, a kill by Scott Stadick, a block by Stadick and Tamir Hershko and an ace by Michael Saeta to open a 13-9 gap. The Gauchos strung three points together to knot the score at 16-16. A block and kill by Keenan Sunders gave UC Santa Barbara the lead, 18-17. UCI went up 23-21 and 24-22 before the Gauchos rallied to tie the score at 24-24. A kill by Hodges was followed by two aces by Matthew Younggren for the 28-26 UCI victory.

Four straight errors by UCI put UCSB ahead 7-2 in the second set. Three more consecutive points expanded the Gauchos' lead to 17-11. A 5-1 spurt by the Anteaters narrowed the score to 20-22, but UC Santa Barbara would score three of the final four points to win, 25-21.

A Gaucho kill plus two UCI attack errors forced an Anteater timeout in the third set, 10-7. Reid Dominquez sparked UCI with a kill and an ace to tie the set at 14-14.The teams wouldn't be separated by more than a point until a pair of UCI attack errors gave UCSB the 31-29 win.

A kill by Hodges and Dominguez followed by a block by Dominguez and Andrew Benz gave UCI the 15-12 advantage. A kill by Benz and a block by Hodges made the score 17-13. A Saeta ace and a Benz kill forced a fifth set as UCI won 25-17.

UCI jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fifth on another Saeta ace. At 5-5, UCI out-scored UCSB 7-1, which included three kills by Saeta to open a 12-6 lead. UCI would close out the match on a kill by Tucker Pikula, 15-9.

UCI will travel to No. 2 UCLA tomorrow (Jan. 12) for a 7:30 p.m. start at Pauley Pavilion.

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