Second-ranked UC Irvine Rallies To Beat No. 1 USC, 3-2 In MPSF Semifinal

UC Irvine

Los Angeles, Calif. – After losing the first two sets, second-ranked UC Irvine rallied to defeat No. 1 USC, 3-2 (24-26, 23-25, 25-16, 28-26, 15-9) in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinal match at the Galen Center Thursday.

The Anteaters (23-5), the tournament's fourth-seed, advance to face second-seeded Stanford in the MPSF championship match Saturday (Apr. 28) at 7:00 p.m. in the Galen Center. UCI, who is 4-1 in five-gamers this season, snapped USC's 18-match winning streak as the Trojans go to 23-5 on the year. Stanford defeated third-seeded BYU, 3-1 in the first semifinal. Buy Tickets Now For Saturday's match

First-team All-American Kevin Tillie led all players with a career-high 23 kills and a career-high 11 digs. First team All-American Carson Clark recorded 14 kills, three aces, eight digs and four block assists, while senior outside hitter Kevin Carroll put-away 12 kills and hit .476 (12-2-21. He matched his season-high with seven digs in the final three games. Outside hitter Connor Hughes had a season-high 10 kills in two sets, while setter Chris Austin totaled a career-best 62 set assists and led the team with a career-high 12 digs. Middle blocker Scott Kevorken hit .750 with nine kills in 12 attempts and led all players with eight total blocks. Middle blocker Dan McDonnell had five kills and four blocks while libero Michael Brinkley had eight digs.

The Anteaters out-blocked (14.0-13.5), out-hit (.290-.194), out-dug (48-45) and out-served (8-1) USC.

Tony Ciarelli was the lone Trojan in double-digit kills with 22. He also had nine digs. Micah Christenson recorded 31 set assists and a team-best 11 digs. Robert Feathers led USC with six block assists.

In the first set, the teams remained close until the Trojans scored three straight to sneak ahead 21-18. Kills by Kevin Tillie and Carson Clark narrowed the margin to 21-20, but a joust at the next stopped the UCI streak, 22-20. UCI would rally scoring the next two on kills by Scott Kevorken and Connor Hughes to tie it at 22 all. The teams would trade points until two Anteater errors gave the Trojans the set, 26-24.

UCI led 9-6 in the second, but USC went on a 5-2 run to tie it at11-11. Back-to-back blocks by the Trojans gave USC its first lead of the set at 15-14. The Trojans continued to lead 19-17 when UCI had a kill and service ace by Clark to knot the score at 19-19. An attack error by Tony Ciarelli gave UCI the 20-19 advantage, but USC would score the next two on UCI hitting errors to regain the 21-20 lead. Following a tie at 23-23, USC would score the final two points of the set, 25-23.

UCI jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the third set, mostly behind the serving of Kevin Carroll who added in ace during his time at the service line. The Anteaters opened a 21-13 lead on back-to-back blocks. UCI would record seven blocks in the set and go on to win 25-16.

UCI used the momentum from the third set and began the fourth set with a 5-0 lead, which included a pair of kills by Tillie, a kill by Carroll, a service ace by Clark and a block by Kevorken and Carroll. The large lead was short-lived as the Trojans went on a 7-3 spurt to close within 8-7. UCI would hold on to the advantage and continue leading, 18-14 when USC scored three straight to narrow, 18-17. UCI would use an error and a Carroll kill to go up 20-18 and then 21-19, but USC would score two in a row to tie the score at 21-21. A Trojan attack that sailed wide was followed by a kill by Clark to push the Anteaters ahead, 23-21. UCI held a 24-22 lead but USC would score the next three to take a 25-24 lead. The teams would trade points until a kill by Carroll was followed by an ace by Tillie to give UCI the fouth set, 28-26 and force a fifth set.

In the fifth set, UCI had five straight points on kills by Carroll, Clark, McDonnell and Tillie and a Trojan attack error to pull away 11-6. UCI would complete the comeback with a 15-9 victory.

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