LOS ANGELES -– No. 3 UC Irvine battled back to win the final two sets and defeat No. 5 UCLA, 3-2 (19-25, 22-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-11) at Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday.
The Anteaters improve to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the MPSF. UCLA, who played its eighth five-setter, goes to 6-4 on the year and 3-4 in the MPSF.
Sophomore libero Michael Brinkley posted a career-high 20 digs as the Anteaters out-dug the Bruins 53-49. All-American outside hitter Kevin Tillie led the UCI offense with 17 kills followed by opposite Zack La Cavera with 15 kills and a season-high eight digs. Middle blocker Collin Mehring had nine kills and hit .727 (9-1-11), while outside hitter Connor Hughes added nine kills and seven digs.
UCLA Gonzalo Quiroga led all players with 25 kills. Dane Worley totaled 20 kills and hit .633 (20-1-30) . Clayton Paullin recorded 10 kills and Robart Page had a team-high 13 digs.
In the first set, UCI trailed 15-14 then had kills by Kevin Tillie and Collin Mehring followed by a Bruin attack error and a kill from Connor Hughes to jump ahead 18-15. UCI had a block by Chris Austin and Scott Kevorken then Kevorken had a kill in the middle for the 25-19 Anteater victory.
UCLA used consecutive kills to go up 8-6 and led 8-7 before UCI countered with a Bruin attack error, a kill by Tillie, a service ace by Kevorken and another UCLA attack that flew wide for the 11-8 lead. The next three went to the Bruins to knot the set at 11-11. UCI would commit three straight errors to give UCLA the 17-14 advantage. A kill by Tillie would narrow the margin to 22-21 before the Bruins would score three of the final four points for the 25-22 win.
In the third set, UCLA had a kill by Dane Worley and a service ace by Robart Page to take a 4-2 advantage. Tillie would have a kill on the next play and that was as close as the Anteaters would get as the Bruins won the set 25-20.
A solo block by Jason Agopian, a kill by Hughes, a service by Mehring and a Bruin attack into the net put UCI ahead 14-10 in the fourth set. The Anteaters would win the set 25-20 and force a fifth set for the second consecutive match.
In the final set, the teams would trade points until La Cavera would put away back to back kills to give the Anteaters the 9-7 lead. Still leading 11-10, UCI used a Bruin service error and a pair of kills by Tillie to give UCI its first match point, 14-10. Following a UCLA kill and UCI timeout, a Bruin foot fault ended the match 15-11.