UCLA falls in quarterfinals
Loss to UC Irvine ends Scates' legendary coaching career
IRVINE, Calif. -- In what ended up being the final match of legendary head coach Al Scates' illustrious career, the fifth-seeded UCLA men's volleyball team fell to fourth-seeded UC Irvine in four sets on Saturday night in the MPSF quarterfinals.
UCLA ends the 2012 season with a 22-8 record while UC Irvine moves on to meet USC in the MPSF semifinals. Set scores were 25-14, 23-25, 25-16 and 25-23.
The first set was all UC Irvine as the Anteaters quickly jumped out to an 11-7 lead. From there, Irvine extended their lead to six at 15-9 after kills from Carson Clark and Connor Hughes and an ace by Hughes. The Bruins could simply not get anything going in the first set and the Anteaters cruised to a 25-14 first-set victory.
UCLA battled back in the second set despite falling down early by three points at 9-6. However, back-to-back kills from Nick Vogel and Matt Hanley cut the lead to 9-8 and eventually the Bruins tied the set at 12-12. The two sides traded points until Irvine went up by two at 19-17, but again UCLA fought back and took the next three points behind two Anteater errors and a kill from Weston Dunlap to make it 20-19 Bruins.
They would gain that crucial two point advantage at 22-20 when Gonzalo Quiroga scored a kill and Dunlap and Kyle Caldwell combined for a key block. The Bruins went on to close out the set 25-23 to tie the match at one set apiece.
In the third set, Irvine bounced back and jumped out to another early lead, going up 11-5. Like the first set, the Bruins just couldn't gain any momentum, as they were unable to get within five points of the Anteaters after that point and hit just .045 in the set. Led by five blocks and a .462 hitting percentage, Irvine won the third set 25-16 to put the Bruins in a 2-1 hole in the match.
The Anteaters took another early lead in set four, going up 8-5 before UCLA fought back to tie it at 8-8 behind an Irvine service error and a kill and an ace from Vogel. However, Irvine regained momentum and went up by a commanding five points at 15-10. The Bruins couldn't cut into the deficit for much of the set, until they cut it to two points at 20-18 after an Irvine service error and an ace from Gonzalo Quiroga. The Anteaters called timeout and kept the Bruins from getting any closer and took a three point lead at 24-21.
Things looked bleak for UCLA, but they got back-to-back blocks from Vogel, Amberg and Quiroga and Quiroga and Dunlap to make it 24-23 Irvine with a chance to extend the match. But yet again they could not break through, and the Anteaters took the next point to win the match in four sets and advance to the semifinals.
Quiroga and Vogel led the Bruins with seven kills and 10 points apiece. Jeremy Casebeer, Matt Hanley and Thomas Amberg each had six apiece while Amberg hit a blistering .545 in the match. By recording one block assist in the match, Amberg also passed Paul Johnson for the most block assists in a single season by a UCLA player in the rally scoring era. Kyle Caldwell also had 33 set assists to go with his four kills and three block assists, while Weston Dunlap led the team with six total blocks on the night.
Overall, UCLA hit .184 in the match while UC Irvine hit .384. Kevin Tillie led the Anteaters with 20 kills in the match.
As mentioned above, this was the last match in the 50-year coaching career of Al Scates. Scates leaves the game with a nation-best 1,239 victories, 21 overall national championships, 19 NCAA Championships and 24 conference titles. In addition, Scates has coached 52 different first-team NCAA All-Americans, 44 U.S. National Team members, 27 Olympians, 26 USVBA All-Americans and seven collegiate Players of the Year in his time at UCLA.
On the match, Scates said, "We couldn't stop [Anteater opposite] Kevin Tillie. When we put two blockers on him, we had trouble stopping other people."
Scates added, "I enjoyed coaching this team and watching it improve. We improved a lot from last year. I'm upset by the loss, but happy to take and spend time with my family. I'm proud of the players that I coached and all of the people that I impacted."