Kayla Varney has been rolling as of late.
The sophomore recorded a team-high 25 kills to go along with 30 digs as the Aggies split a pair of road matches in Southern California this weekend.
“Kayla just brings a lot of intensity,” said head coach Jamie Holmes. “She is very valuable at the serve-receive line and is very valuable offensively for us. This weekend, and for the past few weeks, she was has been able to bring a lot to the court.“
UC Davis fell to UC Irvine on Friday in four sets, but earned a 3-1 victory on Saturday over UC Riverside.
The Aggies move to 12-14 overall and 4-9 in Big West Conference play. UC Irvine improves to 14-11 (9-3) while UC Riverside falls to 8-19 (3-9).
Friday – UC Irvine 3, UC Davis 1
The Aggies headed to Southern California ready to play.
In the first game, UC Davis senior Renee Ibekwe, freshman Katie Denny and Varney all accounted for a pair of kills to take an early 12-8 lead.
The Anteaters crawled back into the game to pull within one at 21-20 after rare attack error by Varney. She rebounded to slam down a kill – her fourth of the set – to put the game out of reach. A kill by opposite hitter Julie King came from setter Carson Lowden, sealing the deal for UC Davis‘ 25-22 win.
The Aggies hit .375 in the opening frame to the Anteaters clip of .243.
UC Davis wouldn’t be as fortunate in the next three sets.
The next three matches went to UC Irvine (25-23, 25-18, 25-17), as three Anteaters posted double-digit kill totals for the match: Kari Pestolesi, Alexandra Filkins and Lauren Kellerman.
The Aggies offense sputtered in the final three sets, recording a .179 hitting percentage while the victorious Anteaters hit .343 as a team.
Saturday – UC Davis 3, UC Riverside 1
Putting Friday’s loss behind them, the Aggies were ready to make quick work of the Highlanders, defeating UC Riverside 25-19, 13-25, 25-16, 25-17.
“I thought this was one of our best nights in terms of playing good team volleyball,” Holmes said. “We communicated well on the court. I thought we made good adjustments and attacked their team effectively.“
Using a diverse offensive attack, UC Davis received 24 kills from outside hitters, 18 from middles and 15 from opposite side.
Setting up those kills was the Lowden, who recorded 53 assists to add to her team-high 681 assists on the year.
Leading all hitters was Ibekwe, who knocked in 15 kills on 45 swings to go along with 12 digs and two blocks. On the season, Ibekwe currently sits at second place in conference in kills per game with 3.74.
“Renee has been consistently the top attacker on the team,” Holmes said. “Her impact on the team chemistry is huge. We look to her night in and night out to be a consistent leader to the rest of the team.“
Varney, King and Denny all chipped in with nine kills. Varney also led the field with her 21 digs on the match.
On the other side of the net, Highlander senior Kelly Fink slammed down 15 kills on only 29 swings for a .483 hitting percentage. Middle blocker Shannon Moyneur blocked eight shots on the match, contributing to her conference-leading 1.43 blocks per game.
UC Davis comes home to host Cal State Fullerton (14-14, 7-6) and Cal State Northridge (7-20, 1-12) on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Both will begin at 7 p.m. at the Pavilion.
MATT MILLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.