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Playing in its first conference game of the season last night at Rob Gym, the No. 9 UCSB men’s volleyball team had a dominating performance against No. 6 Long Beach State, sweeping the 49ers in three sets 25-17, 25-21 and 25-22. Efficient passing and a high energy level were critical in the match as it propelled the Gauchos to its third consecutive win of the season.
“We just made sure to pass the ball well and when we got a set, we really were taking advantage of it and putting the ball down,” redshirt sophomore outside hitter Weston Nielsen said. “We’ve been really focusing on keeping our energy levels up during practice … everyone has just been determined to get a fired up team out there no matter who we have on the floor.”
With its third consecutive sweep, UC Santa Barbara is now 3-1 overall on the season and 1-0 in MPSF play with its only loss coming at the hands of UCLA. The 49ers fall to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
The Gauchos were able to take an early lead in the first set, coming out attacking and putting pressure on the 49er defense from the beginning, forcing Long Beach State to take an early timeout with the score at 6-2. UCSB’s stellar passing on the night was too much too handle for the 49ers and the Gauchos were able to win the first set handily, 25-17.
In a closely contested second game, Nielsen came up huge for the Gauchos, recording six of his 12 kills in the set en route to helping UCSB win the game 25-21. The set was also highlighted by UCSB’s showcase of depth as five different Gauchos were able to put points on the scoreboard.
“Our team is real even from the first player all the way to the 19th player on the team and anybody can play at any time,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “They all pull for each other, they’re not selfish… they just pull for whoever is in there and that’s why we’re a pretty tight team.”
Long Beach was determined to put up a fight in the third set after falling 2-0 to the Gauchos and led 12-7 before UCSB called a timeout. After the stoppage in play, the Gauchos went on a 5-2 run. Santa Barbara continued pulling away from Long Beach and increased its lead by three before sophomore opposite Matt Marsh ultimately sealed the win with his team-high 15th kill of the match.
“Against UCLA we had a two game lead and we kind of let up and gave them three straight games and that’s our one lost so far,” freshman setter Jonah Seif said. “So we just made sure in game three we came out, kept the same energy and we pushed.”
UCSB will now try to keep its momentum and current win streak alive, but it will have to do it on the road as it travels south to Cal State Northridge Friday night in another critical conference matchup.
“Our first game of the season just sets the momentum for everything coming; it’s great, it gets our guys hyped,” Seif said. “To keep the momentum, we just really have to have good practice, focus, make sure we pay attention to film, get down [CSUN’s] tendencies and execute.”
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 10, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.