After a stretch of untimely errors and heartbreaking defeats, the UCSB men’s volleyball team finally prevailed on the road last night, defeating No. 9 USC 3-1 for its first road win of the season.
Losers of 10 of the last 12 games, this win snaps a four-game skid for the Gauchos and leaves them within striking distance to reach postseason play.
“[The win] was really big for us; it was a big motivator,” senior outside hitter Miles Evans said. “We were in last place this week and we just moved up and we’re still in the running.”
UCSB improves to 6-11 overall and 4-9 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. More importantly, the team moves one spot ahead in the standings to 11th overall. Meanwhile, the Trojans have now lost three straight and drop to 3-8 both overall and in MPSF play.
Unlike in its previous three matches, UCSB began the first set of the game red hot, jumping out to a 9-3 advantage against the Trojans. Fueled by senior middle blocker Dylan Davis’ three kills and four blocks in the set, the Gauchos increased their lead further and won the first set convincingly, 25-16.
“We really stuck to our scouting reports for SC,” Davis said. “We really limited our errors and forced SC to play our game.”
USC rebounded in the second game, but the Gauchos were just as relentless in their attack. A nail-biting game from start to finish, each side traded points until UCSB gave itself breathing room for a slight 18-14 lead. With each team failing to distance themselves, it eventually took the Gauchos seven match point serves to gut out a gritty 30-28 win.
USCB held the decisive edge on defense, tallying seven blocks compared to the Trojans’ one, giving the Gauchos enough of an advantage to pull through.
“It was a battle because we were back and forth constantly,” Evans said. “What was the big turnaround for us is that we got a lot of blocks tonight. Our passing and defense is what really helped us win that match.”
After dropping the third set 25-21, UCSB seemed to be still reeling from the loss and began the fourth set down 6-1. A resilient performance from the Gauchos narrowed the gap and ultimately allowed them to take the set for a 25-21 victory and their first conference win since Feb. 5.
“We started out not the way we wanted to,” Evans said. “We were a little timid, but we came back and we got a couple aces and that was really big for us.”
Santa Barbara has another critical game approaching against No. 7 UCLA Wednesday, a team that has defeated the Gauchos twice in the season already.