UC Irvine sweeps Loyola Chicago in semifinals, advances to title match
LOS ANGELES -- Second-seeded UC Irvine swept No. 3 seed Loyola Chicago 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 29-27) in the first semifinal of the NCAA championship on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
UCI, 24-7 overall, advanced to Saturday's championship match.
Coach David Kniffin's Anteaters hit .500 in the win against the Ramblers (22-10). Senior All-American Kevin Tillie led UCI with a match-high 14 kills, hitting .579 and adding seven digs.
Collin Mehring and Connor Hughes recorded nine kills each. Mehring hit .818 and Hughes .615 in the semifinal win. Chris Austin registered 39 set assists and tied Tillie with a match-high seven digs.
Cody Caldwell led Loyola with 12 kills and Joseph Smalzer added 11 as the Ramblers hit .263 in the match.
Loyola entered the match as the No. 1 team in the nation in kills, while UCI was ranked second.
The Anteaters battled back from a 20-17 deficit in the first set, winning on a kill by Zack La Cavera. In the second set, UCI took the lead for good at 15-14 and gradually pulled away. A kill by Hughes closed out the tight third set and the match.
UCI will be making its fourth appearance in an NCAA title match and the Anteaters have been victorious in the previous three (2007, 2009 and 2012).