LA JOLLA, Calif. – Sixth-ranked UC Irvine needed five sets to beat UC San Diego, 3-2 (25-22, 25-19, 26-28, 23-25, 17-15) at RIMAC Arena Friday.
UCI improves to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the MPSF and will battle No. 5 Hawaii (5-2, 0-2) tomorrow at the Bren Events Center beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Seniors Tamir Hershko and Thomas Hodges led UCI with a season-high 15 kills apiece. The middle was effective as Benz had a season-best 11 kills and four blocks and Scott Stadick added nine kills and three blocks. Senior Michael Saeta had five kills, 48 set assists and three aces, while sophomore Karl Apfelbach recorded seven kills in four sets. Libero Dillon Hoffman tallied a team-high 11 digs.
UCSD's Tanner Syftestad had a match-high 23 kills and three aces. Devin Pontigon had 11 kills and Alec Flowers had 10 kills in the loss. The Tritons fall to 0-5 on the year and 0-4 in conference action.
In the first set, UCI used an 8-3 run which included two kills and an ace by Thomas Hodges to take a 10-5 lead. A pair of Triton errors and kills by Karl Apfelbach and Michael Saeta gave UCI an important cushion, 21-15. UCSD pulled within 24-22, before Scott Stadick put away the set winner in the middle 25-22.
In the second set, Hershko had two kills and served tough to push the Anteaters out to an 11-5 advantage. A 5-0 spurt that was capped by an Andrew Benz kill on an overpass extended the lead to 21-13. The Anteaters would go on to take the set 25-19.
UC San Diego controlled the beginning of the third set, leading 10-7 before the Anteaters scrapped back and tied the set at 11-11 on a Saeta ace. An ace by Apfelbach was followed by a kill by Stadick, putting UCI ahead 14-12. With UCI leading 23-20, UCSD wouldn't go away as Tanner Syftestad took over for the Tritons recording back-to-back aces and two kills to take a 24-23 lead. The teams would trade points until a UCI service error was followed by another Syftestad kill to give the Tritons the 28-26 victory.
The teams would not be more than two points apart in the fourth set with UCSD taking an important 22-20 advantage on a UCI service error and an ace. The Anteaters rallied on back-to-back kills by Hodges and Tucker Pikula to tie it up 23-23. UCSD would use a Syftestad kill and a UCI attack error to force a fifth set, 25-23. The set featured 18 ties and eight lead changes.
Another untimely service error followed by a Triton kill and an Anteater attack error gave UCSD an 8-4 lead. UC San Diego was on top 11-8 then UCI had a kill by Hershko, a Triton error and a kill by Hodges to knot the score at 11 all. UCSD would record two kills to take the 13-11 advantage, but once again UCI answered with a pair of Hershko kills, 13-13. Each squad would record two points each before the Anteaters secured the victory on two UCSD errors.