Outside attacker Connor Hughes stepped up when No. 1 UC Irvine need him the most in the championship match of the UC Santa Barbara Invitational.
With No. 6 UCLA leading UC Irvine 13-12 in the decisive fifth game, Hughes had two kills and a block on the final three plays of the match as the Anteaters rallied to beat Bruins 25-17, 25-17, 24-2, 25-24, 15-13 on Saturday in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Hughes finished the match with 10 kils and was one of four Anteaters with double-digit kills. Outside attacker Zack La Cavvera in the victory had a team-high 17 kills, while outside attacker Jeremy Dejno added 13 kills.
The Anteaters (4-0, 0-0 MPSF) out-hit the Bruins .248 to .243 to win the non-conference tournament. In addition, UC Irvine libero Michael Brinkely had a match-high 16 digs against UCLA.
Outside attacker Robart Page led UCLA (2-1, 0-0 MPSF) with 17 kills in the championship match.
This is the second consecutive year that UC Irvine won the non-conference tournament. The Anteaters defeated the Bruins in four games last season in the tournament’s championship match and finished the season winning their third NCAA championship in the last six years.
This year’s championship match was also the first meeting between the two school since John Speraw became the head coach of the UCLA. Speraw after guiding UC Irvine to the NCAA championship last season left the school to replace retiring Hall of Fame coach Al Scates as the head coach at UCLA.
UC Irvine under first-year head coach David Kniffin advanced to this year’s championship match after sweeping Cal Baptist and No. 7 Long Beach State on Friday.
Following this non-conference, both UC Irvine and UCLA will begin MPSF play on Tuesday.
UC Irvine will play a home match No. 4 Pepperdine in its conference opener on Tuesday. UCLA will play its MPSF opener against Cal State Northridge in the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion.
UC Santa Barbara Invitational All-Tournament Team
MVP: Collin Mehring – UC Irvine
Vaun Lennon – UC San Diego
Connor Olbright – Long Beach State
Dylan Davis – UC Santa Barbara
Robart Page – UCLA
Evan Mottram – UCLA
Connor Hughes – UC Irvine