Irvine edges BYU in five, Beach sweeps USC

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Irvine's Joel Schneidmiller reaches for a right-side spike/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

A busy Saturday night around the men’s college game starts with UC Irvine’s second win a row against BYU in Irvine.

“Two really good wins against a really good team,” Irvine assistant Mark Presho told VolleyballMag.com after the match. Presho took press duties for head coach David Kniffin, who lost his voice during the match. “It’s been a heck of a good run this first quarter of the season. I thought it was going to take us some time to get ramped up because we lost so much firepower from last year, but we’re starting off on fire, which is sweet.”

This time, No. 6 Irvine was a 25-16, 24-26, 25-18, 21-25, 15-13 winner against No. 5 BYU and improved to 9-1 overall.

Freshman outside hitter Joel Schneidmiller had a career-high 19 kills for Irvine and hit .424. Senior Aaron Koubi hit .538 and posted a season-high 17 kills. Karl Apfelbach had 15 kills, seven digs and had six total blocks. Sophomore Scott Stadick had a season-high 10 kills and also had six total blocks. Setter Dante Chakravorti had 52 assists and a match-high 13 digs.

“This team is playing pretty well right now,” said Presho. “There are a lot of really good teams in the country this year so it’s really stacked. Let’s call it the top-heavy volleyball community. Ohio State obviously is very good. Long Beach State is unbelievable, UCLA is very good, and there are Cal State Northridge and Hawai’i. Hawai’i is really tough to beat, especially if they are at their place. I don’t remember when we had six really good teams like we do this year.”

Presho said team culture has been a key factor thus far for the Anteaters. “Our team culture definitely is different this year,” he said. “I think it’s all the extra time and reps the guys demanded of one another because we knew we were going to be inexperienced. We lost the firepower with Hershko and Saeta from the service line and Thomas Hodges from the right last year. We were really an unknown. There were a lot of unknowns coming into this year.

“These guys came together and pushed one another and then bought into everything that Kniff and Jordan were doing from a training perspective and it’s paying dividends.”

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Karl Apfelbach and David Parker of UCI dive/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Koubi said beating BYU is never an easy chore. “It feels good to win, especially against BYU,” he said. “They are a pretty good team. They beat Ohio State and we knew it was going to be a big weekend.”

Koubi piggybacked on Presho’s comments about the team’s work ethic. “I think we work really hard and that’s our mentality,” he said. “We started the season with an underdog mentality, just working hard and seeing where it was going to go and we still work like that. We don’t think that we’re better than other teams, we just work hard and see what happens.

“Last season we had big guys like Thomas and Tamir—our system was different. We would just hit hard and play. This team plays more together, we know what we have to do, everybody knows their job and everybody backs each other up, so that’s our mentality. I think that although we’ve felt that years before, this year it’s different.”

Koubi added the team’s even-keel attitude, win or loss has been another key benefit.  “We try to play the same whether we’re winning or we’re losing,” he said. “It’s pretty hard because when we’re winning, it’s easy to go and continue to play well, but when you’re losing, it’s hard, but we’re doing a good job to stay the same, and be good when we’re losing.

The coach always reminds us to stay the same and gives us the same comments regardless of whether we’re winning or losing. That really helps and we don’t play with momentum. We just play our game, point by point.”

Elsewhere in MPSF-related action, No. 1 Long Beach State, now in the Big West Conference, swept USC 3-0 in Los Angeles. The 49ers moved to 9-0, while USC fell to 3-5. Kyle Ensing led Long Beach State with 13 kills and hit .435 with seven digs. Bjame Huus had 10 kills and hit .571. TJ DeFalco added seven kills and had eight digs.

No. 12 Pepperdine was a 3-1 winner against Ball State at George Mason in the Uvaldo Acosta Invitational. David Wieczorek had 15 kills and Alex Harthaller had 10 kills for Pepperdine (3-2). Matt Walsh had 13 kills for No. 14 Ball State.

Grand Canyon was a 3-0 winner against Ottawa (Arizona). Cody Williams had a team-high nine kills and hit .500 in two sets of action.

In the Big West-related play, Lewis was a 3-1 winner over UC Santa Barbara, while Loyola-Chicago was a 3-1 winner over Cal-State Northridge. UC San Diego was a 3-1 winner over Ottawa at Grand Canyon.

One key match is on tap tonight in Hawai’i with UCLA facing Hawaii at 7 p.m. Hawai’i time.

In the Lewis match, the No. 10 Flyers were paced by Ryan Coenen’s 15 kills in the win against UC Santa Barbara. Lewis moved to 5-3. Keenan Sanders led the Gauchos (3-3) with 24 kills.

In No. 7 Loyola’s win against Northridge, the Ramblers hit a season-high .436 in winning their fourth match in a row. Loyola has wins against four nationally ranked teams this season. Collin Mahan led the Ramblers with 19 kills and six digs and hit .394. Ricky Gevis had 16 kills and hit .519.

Other MIVA action saw Quincy with a 3-0 win against Campbellsville, while Clarke topped Quincy 3-2.

MIVA standings after Saturday show Fort Wayne at 7-0 overall, while Loyola is 6-2 and Lindenwood is 5-2. Ohio State is 4-2 and Lewis is 5-3 along with Quincy. Ball State is 4-3.

Over in the EIVA, Harvard was a 3-0 winner over Sacred Heart at the Pitt Center in Fairfield, Connecticut. Harvard moved to 1-2 overall with its EIVA-opening win. Jack Heavey led Harvard with 10 kills and hit .471, while Erik Johnsson had nine kills. Harvard hit .324.

After Saturday, Charleston (W. Va.) is 3-0 overall, while Penn State is 3-1 overall. Saint Francis is 5-5.

Conference Carolinas action from Saturday saw Limetone defeating Alderson Broaddus 3-1. Barton was a 3-0 road winner at Emmnauel (Georgia). Mount Olive was a 3-0 winner against Erksine. North Greenville won at home, 3-1, against Lees-McRae and King (Tennessee) was a 3-0 winner at Belmont Abbey.

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