RIVERSIDE, Calif. – UC Riverside entertained a ruckus crowd at the SRC Arena on Thursday night for the Highlanders' home opener, as Nicky Cannon picked up her first UCR home win with a thrilling 3-2 win over UC San Diego.
The Highlanders faced plenty of adversity in the first event of 2022-23 at the SRC, but never wavered from their eighth Big West home opener win in program history and first since 2019 over Cal State Fullerton, when Cannon was on the Titans' sideline.
"It's exciting to have students, fans and parents here," Cannon said. "What makes us great is our service pressure, our relentless defense and our energy. Those are the three things that make teams uncomfortable and that's exactly what we did."
Three Highlanders posted double-digit kills on the evening and Mylei Vargas-Deason led the way for UCR with 16 kills and 14 digs. The junior led UC Riverside in kills for the second straight match and fourth overall.
UC San Diego set one in a close 25-18 affair, but UCR battled back to tie it with a 25-22 win in set two before storming ahead with a narrow 25-23 win in set three.
UCR logged 12 aces across sets two, three and four as part of a Highlander Division I-record 15 in the win, led by a season-high six from Makena Tong.
UC San Diego forced a decisive fifth set before jumping out to an 8-2 lead in set five, but UCR rattled off an 8-2 run of its own and finished the job with Tayler Hifo at the service line. Both sides battled past 15 points akin to UC Riverside's five-set thriller to Idaho State earlier in the season, but the Highlanders were able to push the match across the finish line in front of the home crowd.
UCR will continue Big West play on Saturday, October 1 when UC Irvine comes to the SRC Arena for a 4:00 p.m. first serve. Admission is free and live stats will be available on the volleyball schedule at GoHighlanders.com.