Following a pair of back-to-back matches in which the UCR volleyball team (6-18, 2-11) fell to Long Beach State (9-15, 6-6) and Cal State Northridge (11-13, 6-6), the Highlanders returned home on Tuesday, Nov. 4 to take on UC Irvine. Although the Highlanders lost the first set in an ugly fashion to Irvine, their resilience was instrumental in pushing the game to five sets and ultimately earning the win at home.
UC Riverside failed to find their footing in the first set, losing 25-11. UC Irvine (UCI) was dominant on the net, posting a hit rate of .591 collectively. The Highlanders’ sloppy play was reminiscent of their play through their 10-game losing streak.
However this time, they were finally able to adjust their gameplay and revamp their offensive strategy completely entering the second set. The Highlanders displayed a disciplined offense last seen in their only other conference win against Cal State Fullerton (11-11, 3-8) on Tuesday, Sep. 24.
Led by junior setter Morgan Kline, who created 42 assists, three Highlanders were able to post double digits in the kill department. Freshman outside hitter Amarachi Osuji and junior outside hitter Ayla Fresenius both tallied 14 kills a piece. Notably, junior middle blocker Kat Lowry capitalized on 13 kills to finish the match with an imposing .667 hitting percentage.
Kline was determined to lead the team on the net. Kline, who also finished the match with seven kills on offense and eight digs on defense, began her impressive performance early on in the second set which the Highlanders took 25-21.
With their newly found momentum, the Highlanders were able to stay on top of UCI for a majority of the set. This was the set where Osuji and Fresenius displayed a gritty attitude to keep the fight going. Osuji led the set across both teams with five kills, while Fresenius contributed 4 kills of her own. The third set ended 25-20 in favor of UCR.
UCI exhibited similar enthusiasm of their own, forcing a fifth and final set after taking the fourth set 25-21. Despite the effort, their hopes of escaping Riverside with a victory was diminished early on in the final set. The Highlanders rallied for an initial 5-0 run. From that point on, UCR’s lead would not drop lower than three points. Outside hitter freshman Ashley Dittmann, who earned seven kills throughout the match, finished the set 15-8, with the final kill.
The Highlanders will travel away from home as they play two of their last three games. They will match up with UC Irvine (4-19, 1-10) once again on Friday, Nov. 15 and play their final away game against Cal State Fullerton (11-11, 3-8) on Saturday, Nov. 16.