UC Davis entered the weekend with a perfect 2-0 mark in Big West Conference play this season.
The Aggies put that record on the line first on Friday night at the Student Recreation Center in Riverside, Calif., and then at No. 24 UC Irvine on Saturday night.
The Aggies answered the challenge against the Highlanders with a four-set comeback win.
UC Davis was then upended by the Anteaters, falling in four sets to their nationally ranked opponent.
Friday – UC Davis 3, UC Riverside 1
Despite a poor record, the Highlanders gave the Aggies a battle on Friday night.
UC Riverside took the first set 25-21 and went up on the Aggies in the second set 24-22.
At this point, things looked bleak for the Aggies since this was where they had trouble in matches last season.
That wasn’t the case in Friday’s match as they worked the score back to 24-24 thanks to a kill and block by middle blocker Betsy Sedlak.
A couple of plays later, Sedlak gave the Aggies a one-point lead on a sideout kill before junior Melanie Adams finished the set off with the winning block to tie the game at one set per side. The second set win also placed the momentum squarely on the Aggies shoulders.
UC Davis did not look back from there.
After the comeback victory in the second game, the Aggies won the next two sets 25-20 and 25-18 to take the match, moving their league record to 3-0.
The win marked the first time that UC Davis had a 3-0 conference mark in 13 years.
Saturday – No. 24 UC Irvine 3, UC Davis 1
UC Davis then traveled to play at No. 24 UC Irvine, a squad with a slightly better record than the Aggies’ previous opponent.
Based on this and the Anteaters’ national ranking, UC Davis expected a tough match from one of the better teams in the conference.
That is exactly what the Aggies got.
In the first set, freshman outside hitter Allison Whitson pounded out seven kills on thirteen attempts, including five kills in the Aggies’ 14-9 start.
Junior Kayla Varney helped out by knocking down two kills and serving up two aces to give the Aggies a 20-13 lead.
The Anteaters climbed back, however, closing the gap to 24-22 before Adams hit the set winner on game point to give the Aggies the first set win.
In the second set, UC Davis had a good chance to go up 2-0, just as UC Riverside had the day before against the Aggies, but unlike the Highlanders, the Aggies could not pull it off.
UC Davis found itself up 17-13 before UC Irvine roared back and tied things up at 20. The Anteaters took advantage of costly hitting errors and net violations by the Aggies to pull ahead 22-20. The Anteaters never surrendered the lead and came away with a 25-23 victory evening things up at one.
Things did not go the Aggies way after that as the Anteaters cruised in the next two sets, winning 25-17 and 25-19 to get the victory at home in the Bren Center.
With the loss, UC Davis drops to 12-6 overall and 3-1 in conference play while the No. 24 Anteaters stand at 13-3 for the season and 3-1 in Big West action.
The Aggies never stopped fighting in the two conference games, but unfortunately could not steal a win from one of the top teams in the country.
Still, Coach Jamie Holmes loves her team’s fighting spirit with this weekend being no exception.
“I love the team’s fighting spirit,” Holmes said. “They scrap for balls and points. They work hard in transition.”
“I think we found that the team that can get the best hits on the ball in transition is the one that wins.”
KYLE HYLAND can be reached at email@example.com.