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Despite losing six straight games, the No. 12 UCSB men’s volleyball team delivered its best performance of the season in a must-win game against No. 13 UCSD, winning three sets to one.
Led by senior middle blocker Dylan Davis’ team-high 14 kills, the Gauchos closed out the Tritons in dominating fashion, winning their first game since Jan. 9.
“We’ve been in a slump for a couple games now and I think our team is just fed up with losing,” Davis said. “This put us where we need to be: back in the winning column.”
Santa Barbara improves to 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, moving into a tie with the Tritons for 11th place in the conference.
Down 23-20 in the first set, the Gauchos found themselves against the ropes, but pulled together a run and scored four of the next five points to draw the match even at 24-all. Despite facing match point on two occasions in the set, Santa Barbara came back and scored the final three points in the frame to win 28-26.
After the Gauchos dropped the second set 25-23, UCSD was again giving UCSB problems in the third match. With 15 lead changes in the set, Santa Barbara traded point for point with the Tritons before winning 27-25 to take a 2-1 lead.
“Against Irvine, we got better at not giving up runs of points and we did that again tonight,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “And as long as you do that, the other team will usually give up a run or two like we had been doing and tonight [UCSD] was the team giving them up, we weren’t.”
UCSB did not let up in the fourth set and took full control from the beginning, jumping out to an 8-4 lead. As opposed to games earlier in the season, Santa Barbara kept applying pressure and prevented the Tritons from getting back into the game. Leading by as many as eight points in the set, the Gauchos closed out the match with a kill by Davis to win 25-19.
“I think we did a great job of closing out today … That I think is actually the biggest part of our win today,” sophomore middle blocker Jake Staahl said. “Being able to crush them so well in that last game really proves that we have the ability to close out matches and that will really help us down the road in winning games.”
Sophomores Staahl and opposite Matt Marsh had standout performances for UCSB, as the duo each had double-digit kills and combined for 24 on the night. Davis was easily the most effective Gaucho on the court, hitting for a .591 hitting percentage.
Santa Barbara will now play its final match of the four-game home stand versus Cal Baptist Tuesday night at Rob Gym before embarking on a six-game road trip.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of February 4th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.