Cal Baptist rallies to upset top-ranked and defending champion UC Irvine
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match in the history of California Baptist was one for the ages Wednesday night, as the No. 14-ranked Lancers knocked off No. 1 and defending national champion UC Irvine in a thrilling five-set comeback.
CBU fell behind 2-0 before storming back for the stunning 22-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-13 victory, opening the flood gates for a raucous celebration on the Van Dyne Gym floor.
"This feels pretty good and it's going to feel pretty good for about another 15 more minutes before we start getting ready for our next match [Thursday]," Cal Baptist's first-year head coach, Wes Schneider, said. "[Wednesday night] was really about coming together as a team. We lost Kristopher Johnson early in the match and had to rally even without one of our key guys. We took whatever came our way and got it done."
The Anteaters looked like the more steady team through the first two games, committing just 13 total errors to 22 by the Lancers.
In the third game Cal Baptist finally found its rhythm, rattling off five consecutive points to break a 6-6 tie behind three kills from Levi Cabral. From there on out it was a match.
The Lancers continued rolling in the third, cruising to a 25-16 win in the set. The fourth was a battle. Cal Baptist held a 20-18 lead late and then Guilherme Koepp and Aaron McCalmont smashed back-to-back kills, followed by an Anteaters error to give the Lancers a 23-18 advantage. Cal Baptist grabbed set point at 24-19, but UC Irvine wouldn't go away, scoring three in a row to force a Lancers timeout. Out of the break, Kevin Kustura set the home team's big gun, setting Cabral up for a right-handed smash off the block to win the set.
Carrying all of the momentum into the final game, Cal Baptist jumped out to a 5-1 lead. Just like in the game before, UC Irvine clawed its way back, evening the set at 13-13.
This night belonged to the Lancers, however, as McCalmont smashed a kill off the block and into the stands to set up match point at 14-13. After a rally that saw players on both sides of the net hit the deck, Koepp snuck a ball off the UC Irvine block and out of bounds for the win.
After that the celebration was on as the student section in the nearly full Van Dyne Gym emptied onto the court.
"We kept our composure and got our game back together," Schneider said. "We were disconnected early, but once we figured it out we were able to do what we do. We're blessed to have a really strong core of offensive weapons."
Koepp led the way for Cal Baptist, ripping 21 kills, while McCalmont added 18 and Cabral had 17. McCalmont hit .429 in the contest and Jon Waber hit a scorching .778 on his seven kills (7-0-9). Kustura had 50 assists and Michael Cate led the way with 12 digs.
Jeremy Dejno led UC Irvine with 21 kills and Kevin Tillie had 15.
The Lancers moved to 3-1 overall on the season and 1-0 in the MPSF. UC Irvine fell to 4-2 and 1-2.