FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas Tech volleyball overpowered UC Irvine, 3-1, Wednesday at TCU's University Recreation Center, punching its ticket for the semifinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
The Red Raiders (18-14, 4-12) advance to the semifinal round where it will take on the winner of TCU (14-16, 4-12) and Green Bay (17-15, 9-7 Horizon) Thursday at 7 p.m. in Fort Worth. The 25-14, 21-25, 25-16, 25-20 victory is Tech's 18th of the season, matching its most in a season since 2000.
"The team has found a good groove late in the season," head coach Tony Graystone said. "Irvine was a quality team and really brought it with their serve. It was a good match tonight. I didn't think we served that great tonight, but everything else I was real happy with."
It was the sophomore tandem of Emily Hill and Chandler Atwood that led the Red Raiders once again. Hill scored a match-high 19 kills to go with 10 digs for her team-leading 13th double-double, while Atwood recorded 14 kills on 28 swings for a .357 clip. The duo have combined for 9.9 kills per set through Tech's run in the NIVC.
Setter Missy Owens also finished with a double-double, her 12th of the season, compiling 42 assists and 16 digs along with three blocks. Junior Katy Keenan was solid in the middle with nine kills at a .474 clip and three blocks.
The Red Raiders outhit UC Irvine .336 to .140, holding the Anteaters (24-8, 10-6 Big West) below a .100 clip in the first and fourth sets. Tech tallied 10.5 team blocks to just one for UC Irvine for its best block differential of the season. Tech's .336 hitting percentage marked its second-best of the season. The Red Raiders are hitting .325 through its run in the postseason.
Defensively, four Red Raiders had double-digit digs led by 16 from Owens. Libero Kate Klepetka tallied 11, while Hill and junior Reyn Akiu had 10 each. Freshman Allison White paced Tech's net presence with five blocks from the middle while Hill had four block assists and a solo block. Keenan and Owens added three apiece.
UC Irvine was led by Haley DeSales and Harlee Kekauoha, who registered kill totals of 14 and 13, respectively. DeSales had six of her 14 kills in the second set, helping the Anteaters hit .303 to grab their only set victory.
The Big 12 remains undefeated in the NIVC, securing two of the three NIVC semifinal spots already with the Horned Frogs looking to claim the final position against the Phoenix Wednesday night. West Virginia travels to Ole Miss in the other semifinal match with the winner likely to host the finals.
HOW IT HAPPENED
In the first set, Tech jumped out to a 5-1 lead and never looked back. The Red Raiders built their lead to nine at 14-5 and cruised to the opening-set win, outhitting the Anteaters .448 to .000.
The Anteaters got off to a hot start in the second set, establishing an 11-5 advantage. After trailing by as many as eight, Tech closed the gap to three at 17-14 thanks to a solo block from Hill. Tech later trimmed the lead to one at 19-18, however, an Anteater challenge overturned an out call to turn the lead back into three, and UC Irvine held on from there.
Tech responded in the third frame, taking an early 6-3 lead and later using a 7-2 run for a 15-9 lead at the media timeout. The Red Raiders posted four blocks and three services aces in the frame on its way to the 25-16 win and a 2-1 advantage in the match.
The Red Raiders carried that momentum into the fourth where Atwood took over with seven kills on .778 hitting to power Tech to the win.
With the win, Texas Tech matches its most win sin a season (18) since 2000.
The Red Raiders have dropped only one set on their way to the NIVC Semifinals.
Texas Tech is now 3-1-1 all-time against UC Irvine.
Texas Tech is 14-2 this season against non-conference opponents.
Tech is now 6-8 overall in postseason play.
Hill now has 24 double-digit kill matches and led the team in kills for a team-best 15th time.
Four Red Raiders finished with double-digit kills including Owens (16), Klepetka (11), Akiu (10) and Hill (10).
Texas Tech takes on the winner of TCU and Green Bay Thursday at 7 p.m. from the TCU Recreation Center with a ticket to the NIVC Finals on the line. A live stream is provided through the subscription-based FrogVision. Live stats will be available through GameTracker. As always, be sure to follow @TexasTechVB on Twitter for live updates and check out www.TexasTech.com for everything Red Raider volleyball.