Stanford upends 'Eaters

IRVINE — Stanford University is known for its unofficial tree mascot. But it was host UC Irvine that went "tim-ber," after an opening-set collapse in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball match Friday at Bren Events Center.

The No. 2-ranked Anteaters, who had won five straight matches coming in, took control early, seizing Game 1 leads of 13-9, 17-12 and 22-16.

But the No. 4-ranked Cardinal, which also came in on a five-match win streak, survived eight set points for a 32-30 triumph. Stanford (10-2, 7-1 in conference) then closed out the sweep with 25-15, 25-23 triumphs to remain in MPSF title contention and drop UCI (9-3, 5-3) to a level below those contenders.

"We got our butts kicked," UCI Coach John Speraw said after Stanford hit .463 as a team and limited the 'Eaters to a .220 clip.

UCI had seven aces to the visitors' two, while committing one more service error. But Stanford won the blocking battle, 9-5, and posted a 33-24 advantage in digs.

"They played better than us in every facet of the game and proved once again that we're not the best team in America," Speraw said. "They consistently beat us, [limiting UCI to hitting percentages of] .195, .240 and .240 [in Games 1-3, respectively]. We didn't adjust and we didn't adapt."

Speraw tried his best to shake things up, using reserves at every position except setter. But once UCI lost its Game 1 advantage, it seemed to crumble under the collective momentum of what Speraw called the best team in America.

"BYU has some injuries right now, otherwise they would still be [No. 1], Speraw said of a Cougars team that swept UCI at home in two matches, but was swept by Stanford in Provo while playing without its leading hitter, who is out with a broken hand.

"So, we're in this position now where we're going to have to just focus on how we're going to be great at the end of the year," Speraw said. "We're not going to win league and we put ourselves in a difficult position, by losing the way we did tonight, to get an at-large bid [into the four-team NCAA Championship]. I think we just need to make sure that we take this dose of reality and utilize it for motivation."

Junior outside hitter Kevin Tillie led UCI with 10 kills. Senior opposite Carson Clark had eight kills and two aces, while sophomore outside hitter Jeremy Dejno had six kills and two aces for the hosts.

Brian Cook (15 kills), Brad Lawson and Steven Irvin (12 each) helped the Cardinal prevail, while senior middle blocker Gus Ellis, a Corona del Mar High product, had three kills, one block assist and one ace for the winners, who received 15 digs from senior libero Erik Shoji.

UCI plays host to Pacific on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Crawford Court.

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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