After Boston College volleyball’s Grace Miliken leapt into the air and earned the final kill against UC Irvine, her teammates surrounded her with high fives, hugs, and a sea of smiles. Not only because she just won the game against the Anteaters, but also because the Eagles had just avoided a fourth-straight loss on their road trip by winning their final game of the 2023 San Diego Invitational.
“I don’t think it’s a relief to get the win,” BC head coach Jason Kennedy said. “I mean, I knew eventually we’re gonna start winning some of these matches on the road. I think it was a relief to see us play as well as we did.”
Despite three straight losses and dropping the first set of Sunday’s match, the Eagles (3–3) took down UC Irvine (2–4), winning the final three sets of the game.
The set scores were 22–25, 29–27, 25–12, and 25–15.
“If you squeak away and you win an ugly match, I don’t know that you did a whole lot,” Kennedy said. “But the fact that we won a match, played it clean, got what we wanted to get and we’re able to continue to build on it. I thought that was a good deal.”
This game could also be referred to as the Alayna Crabtree game, who notched a staggering 21 kills and .326 hit percentage en route to a lopsided victory.
“Oh, it was the best match she played in college,” Kennedy said of the senior. “It was a career high for her, and it wasn’t just a career high because we set her so many balls you know, we set her a decent amount of balls, but to hit a .326 from the left side is really phenomenal.”
UC Irvine quickly pulled away in the tight, first set with four straight kills after it was tied at 13. The Anteaters never gave up their lead, resulting in a 25–22 advantage.
“Well, we lost, but we played a lot better, I thought as far as what the focus was in that first set,” Kennedy said. “You know, we talked a lot about reducing our errors. And we only had four hitting errors.”
The second set proved to be the most pivotal of the match. The Eagles consistently found themselves clawing out of a three to four point deficit, until Alayna Crabtree led a four-straight-point charge with three kills to tie the game at 14. Katrina Jensen then stuffed an Anteater kill for the Eagles’ fifth straight point and the lead.
BC continued its rally to make it 23–19. But just as quickly as that lead was built, it melted away. The Anteaters grabbed the next four points to tie the game at 23. But a strong Crabtree kill, her 12th of the game, kept the Eagles hopes alive. She finished the job with a soft, calculated kill to give BC the set, 28–26.
“That was pivotal,” Kennedy said. “I think you have to go through a couple of those to learn that you can and to believe that you can and that very much you know, closing out that second set was the turning point for the match and really we were able to separate after that.”
It was the spark the Eagles needed, as they dominated the third set behind Crabtree, who registered her 17th kill of the contest.
In the fourth set, Crabtree and Jensen carried the Eagles to the finish line with seven combined kills, and it was a flying Miliken who sent the ball flying into the ground to give BC its 25th point to close out the match.
But in BC’s game just a day earlier against San Diego (1–4), the Eagles were swiftly handled in four sets.
The set scores were 25–18, 10–25, 18–25, and 20–25.
“We were just too up and down and we weren’t consistent enough. You know what we came out really well I thought in the first set and we did a lot of the things we wanted to do, and then kind of fell apart after that.”
Despite taking the first set rather comfortably behind six kills from Schroder, the Eagles could not maintain their momentum.
The second set resulted in a blowout, which deflated the Eagles, and the third set was no problem for the Toreros. In the fourth and final set, BC fought tooth and nail with the Toreros to make it a 20–20 set. But five straight points for San Diego was all that it took to hand BC its third loss of the season.
Its second loss of the season came just a day before, against Tennessee in three sets. The No. 24 ranked Vols (5–0) dominated BC, who was fresh off of a loss to New Hampshire.
The set scores were 25–14, 25–16, and 25–10.
“They’re as good as anybody in the country, I think right now,” Kennedy said of Tennessee. “They’ve got a lot of pieces. They do a lot of things really well. I think that was a good physical test for us. I think it’s pretty evident that we aren’t quite there right now. Wwe played pretty well I thought in spurts, but overall, I think they just outplayed us.”
The first five points of the contest went the Vols’ way, and their dominance could not be denied. The following two sets followed a similar pattern, and BC found itself swept in just three quick sets.