Even being out-blocked and out-hit, Fort Wayne still found a way to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Fort Wayne held No. 3/4 UC Irvine to a negative-.167 attack percentage in the decisive fifth game as the Mastodons upset the Anteaters 25-18, 18-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-9 on Wednesday in Irvine, California.
“They are a big team and we were hoping that our tempo could kind of work around their size,” setter Michael Keegan said in a postmatch interview with Off the Block. “They had a ton of blocks in the sets that we didn’t pass as well, but when we were able to stay in system I thought our pin hitters did a good job getting up on time. I got them good looks and they put the ball away.”
This was the first nationally ranked team Fort Wayne (14-4, 3-3 MIVA) has defeated this season. It also is the first time Fort Wayne has upset a top-five ranked team since beating Pepperdine in the 2007 NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Outside attacker Colton Stone in the non-conference victory led all players with both 17 kills and three aces.
Stone was one of four Mastodons to finish with double-digit kills. Freshman middle attacker Tomas Gago along with his 11 kills had a team-best .529 attack percentage against the Anteaters (11-5, 1-1 Big West).
Despite the loss, UC Irvine out-blocked Fort Wayne 22.5 to 7 and set the NCAA record for this season with most blocks in a single-match. Middle attacker Austin Wilmot had a season-high 12 blocks and outside attacker Aaron Koubi added nine blocks.
Koubi also had a team-high 14 kills in the Anteaters’ first loss to an unranked opponent this season.
UC Irvine finished the match out-hitting Fort Wayne .265 to .210 but in the final game was limited to two kills and four errors.
With this victory, the Mastodons are on a five-match winning streak. Fort Wayne will continue its three-match West Coast road trip as it plays No. 14 UC Santa Barbara.