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UCI looking to rebound

Women's Volleyball

'Eaters taller and plan to operate faster than in 2010, when 8-22 finish was unpleasant surprise.

September 07, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Courtesy of UC Irvine )

The 2010 season for the UC Irvine women's volleyball team wasn't so much a step backward as it was a free fall.

The Anteaters finished 8-22, 3-13 in the Big West Conference, which resulted in an eighth-place finish in the nine-team circuit, and ended a run of three straight winning seasons and three top-three conference finishes.

"It was kind of a weird year last year," said third-year coach Paula Weishoff, whose team is off to a 3-3 start heading into a tournament at New Mexico that begins Friday. "We underachieved a little bit and we didn't get on the right path. We had too many errors. You can't play at that level of error and expect to win."

Weishoff, who missed the first three matches while working as an assistant coach for the U.S. women's national team at the Pan American Games in China, said expectations are to recapture the form that propelled the Anteaters to a 22-8 mark in 2009. That season, UCI played Long Beach State in the conference finale with the Big West title at stake.

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"You always want to improve from the [previous] season and where we were [in 2010] wasn't expected," Weishoff said. "I think we'll maybe have a better record than last year and definitely we're on the way up."

Conference coaches were less convinced, picking UCI to finish seventh in the preseason poll.

And the loss of Kari Pestolesi, a four-time first-team all-conference performer who completed her noteworthy career ranked second on the UCI career lists for kills (1,602), and digs (1,491), while ranking third in career aces (131), adds an additional challenge to the 2011 season.

"We definitely will miss Kari, which is a given," Weishoff said. "She's a great player and she's been great for UCI with her ball control, serving, hitting, and everything she brought to the court."

Weishoff said Pestolesi will join fellow UCI alums Taryn Robertson and Juliane Piggott on the same professional team in Switzerland this season.

Stepping in for Pestolesi as the team's primary offensive threat will be 6-foot-1 sophomore outside hitter Aly Squires. Squires, who started 11 matches last season and played in 78 sets, had 119 kills as a freshman.

But she earned all-tournament honors in the season-opening Aztec Invitational at San Diego State and her 85 kills thus far are 32 more than the No. 2 kill producer, 6-0 sophomore outside hitter Shaina Olsen.

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