IRVINE, Calif. – USC upended No. 6 UC Irvine, 3-1 (25-23, 40-42, 25-23, 25-23) at the Bren Events Center Friday.
The marathon second set that UCI won 42-40, is the longest in the MPSF since the conference semifinals in 2008 where Pepperdine beat Long Beach State 43-41.
Senior Michael Saeta moved to opposite for most of the match and had a season-high 21 kills to go with four aces and 11 set assists for the Anteater. Saeta's four aces moved him in to second all-time in UCI aces with 130.
Freshman middle blocker Scott Stadick had a career-high 12 kills, while junior David Parker had a season-high eight kills. Reid Dominquez and Matthew Younggren each had six kills with Younggren posting a team-high five blocks. Libero Dillon Hoffman collected a match-best 11 digs. Setter Dante Chakrovorti had a season-best 41 set assists.
USC's Lucas Yoder led all players with 29 kills and eight digs. Gianluca Grasso totaled 24 kills and Gert Lisha recorded 56 set assists and nine digs.
The Trojans out-blocked UCI 9-6, but the Anteaters won the service line, 6-1 in aces. The teams were close in hitting percentage with USC holding a slight edge .285-.259.
USC led 13-9 before UCI went on a 5-2 run which included back-to-back blocks by Matthew Younggren and Tamir Hershko to tie the first set at 14-14. The teams would remain close until USC had three kills by Lucas Yoder and an Anteater setting error to take a 21-18 lead. UCI wasn't done, tying the score at 23-23 on a kill by Younggren and a Trojan attack error. Another kill by Yoder and a UCI attack error handed USC the win, 25-23.
In the never-ending second set, USC held a 23-20 advantage before the Anteaters rallied on a pair of Michael Saeta kills and a couple of Trojan errors to knot the score at 24-24. USC would hold set point 12 times then an ace by Saeta put UCI back in the driver's seat, 39-38. Teams would trade points until a Reid Dominquez kill was followed by a block by Younggren and Dante Chakrovorti to finally end the game for UCI, 42-40. Saeta put UCI on his back as he pounded 14 kills in the set.
In a closely contested third set, a kill by Yoder and a UCI attack error was the difference giving USC set point, 24-22. A UCI kill delayed the Yoder winner for USC, 25-23.
USC seemed to be cruising to a victory in the fourth set leading 21-13 before a 10-2 run by UCI that included four Trojan errors and aces by Saeta and Thomas Hodges tied the set at 23-23. USC closed out the set and match on a pair of kills to win 25-23.
UCI goes to 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the MPSF, while USC snaps a five-match losing streak and is 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the MPSF.
UCI will host Long Beach State next Friday (Feb. 10) and CSUN Saturday (Feb. 11). Both matches begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Bren Events Center.
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