Men's Volleyball: 'Eaters trounce Penn St.

No. 4-ranked UCI trounces No. 13-ranked Nittany Lions to complete regular season on senior night.

April 13, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

IRVINE — The No. 4-ranked UC Irvine men's volleyball team has been showing its dominance, its depth and its season-long preparation for the opportunity to defend its 2012 NCAA championship. But in its regular-season finale Saturday night against No. 13-ranked Penn State, the Anteaters were, at times, simply showing off.

UCI (22-6) hit .368 as a team, 238 points better than the Nittany Lions (19-7), while also posting advantages in aces (7-1), team blocks (8.5-7.5), digs (24-16) and setting percentage (.474 to .284) on the way to a commanding 25-20, 25-20, 25-14 nonconference triumph.

It was the fifth straight win for the 'Eaters and the fourth consecutive sweep. Coach David Kniffin's squad is unbeaten in April and will be the No. 2 seed in the eight-team Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament that begins with a home quarterfinal against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.


"It was definitely fun tonight," said UCI setter Chris Austin, who was among three players honored on senior night. "It was good to compete against a team not in the MPSF, so we could play a little bit looser. We're getting better as a team, so that's most important for us. We keep playing well and playing with energy and playing as if we're the underdog, which is good for us."

It's difficult to be the underdog when senior All-American outside hitter Kevin Tillie is displaying his typical postseason dynamism. Tillie, who has been slowed by injuries and even sat out some matches in recent weeks, led the winners with 12 kills. He hit .455 and added one ace and five digs.

"[Tillie] is a fun player to be around, because he is going to make plays for you in several areas on the court," Austin said of the 6-foot-6 outside hitter from France. "When he's feeling good, he's obviously a highlight-reel player to watch and that's fun for us."

Sophomore outside hitter Zack La Cavera added 10 kills and hit .333, while contributing five digs, three block assists and two aces.

Outside hitter Kyle Russell, a 6-9 freshman recently inserted into the starting lineup, had eight kills. He hit .333 and added two aces, two digs and two block assists for the winners, for whom Austin distributed 33 assists and notched three kills. His setting percentage was .516.

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