It was only fitting that outside attacker Kyle McCauley would have the match-winning kill in a decisive fifth game to secure No. 14 UC San Diego’s milestone victory.
McCauley finished with a match-high 24 kills on a .333 attack percentage as UC San Diego upset No. 5/5 UC Irvine 25-20, 22-25, 28-26, 16-25, 15-12 on Saturday in Irvine, California, for the program’s first conference win since joining the Big West in 2018.
The Tritons with this victory in their Big West opener ended a 27-match conference losing streak that dated back to 2017 when they were still a member of the MPSF. It is also their first victory against the Anteaters since 2011 — snapping a 19-match losing streak in the series.
McCauley in the fifth game led UC San Diego (11-3, 1-0 Big West) with a game-high four kills and added an ace and a block. In addition, the junior transfer had back-to-back kills with the score tied 4-4 to give the Tritons a lead that they would not relinquish.
Along with his offensive performance, McCauley had 10 digs and was one of two UC San Diego players with double-digit digs. Setter Connor Walbrecht led all players with a career-high 20 digs in the upset that extended the Tritons’ winning streak to four matches.
UC Irvine (7-5, 0-1 Big West) despite the loss out-hit UC San Diego .242 to .178 and ended with 14 blocks — eight more blocks than the Tritons.
All-American middle attacker Scott Stadtick led the Anteaters defensively with nine blocks, while outside attacker JB Kam contributed seven blocks and nine digs.
All-American outside attacker Joe Schneidmiller in the loss also had a team-high 21 kills and hit .432. Opposite Alexandre Nsakanda added 12 kills but was limited to a .146 attack percentage.
This is the fifth nationally ranked team that UC San Diego has defeated this season and the second time it has upset a top-five ranked team. UC San Diego swept then-No. 3/3 UCLA in the opening weeks of the season.
The Tritons and Anteaters will conclude their conference home-and-home series on Friday at UC San Diego.