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UCI stuffs UCLA

Men's Volleyball

Speraw sends mentor Scates into retirement as 'Eaters advance to MPSF semifinals against top-ranked USC on Thursday.

April 21, 2012|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — UC Irvine junior Kevin Tillie grew up in France and played his first two collegiate men's volleyball seasons in Canada. So, when it came to assessing the storied NCAA championship history of the Anteaters' Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinal opponent on Saturday, UCLA was not so much an imposing force as a pain in the rear.

Rather than 19 NCAA titles and the swan-song 50th season of legendary Bruins Coach Al Scates, all Tillie could think about was his woeful negative .222 hitting percentage (two kills on nine attempts with four errors), in the Anteaters' three-set loss to UCLA on March 31 at Crawford Court.

Things were much different this time, as Tillie, one of the most explosive players in UCI history, produced 20 kills and hit .432 to lead the No. 4-seeded 'Eaters to a 25-14, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 victory over the No, 5-seeded Bruins.

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The win propels No. 2-ranked UCI (22-5) into an MPSF semifinal against top-seeded and top-ranked USC on Thursday at the Trojans' Galen Center.

The Anteaters, who won three of four matches against UCLA (22-8), avenged the straight-set thumping administered by the Bruins in their final regular-season meeting. And Tillie was not the only major difference.

"The biggest difference was, we passed the ball significantly better than the last time we played them, and that allowed us to hit at a really high rate," said UCI Coach John Speraw, whose team, which came in leading the nation in hitting percentage, hit .398, 214 points better than the Bruins. "Our offense really did a nice job. Secondly, I thought we did a much better job executing."

UCI posted a 12-9 advantage in team blocks, considered one of the Bruins biggest strengths.

"That is significant, because that is UCLA; that's what they do," Speraw said. "We took some chances and I think our middle blockers did an outstanding job tonight. This is a [UCLA team] that is middle dominated, but I think our middles did a better job of slowing them down than they did against ours. And our middles were able to get a lot of stuffs on their outside hitters."

UCI sophomore middle blocker Scott Kevorken had five block assists and two solo blocks, while producing four kills on six swings (a .667 clip). Senior middle Dan McDonnell had eight kills on nine swings (.889) and chipped in three block assists, one solo block and one ace.

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