The UCSB men’s volleyball team rang in the new year and opened its season by hosting the 50th annual UCSB Asics Invitational. Santa Barbara went 3-1 on its first day of pool play and finished off the tournament by sweeping UC San Diego and claiming the third place title.
The tournament showcased 10 teams total, and gave the Gauchos an early look at the competition they will be facing in the MPSF this season.
“This tournament gave us a viewpoint of where we are at the beginning of the season in comparison to all of the other teams,” senior libero Chad Kingi said. “Now we know where we’re at and we know where we need to go.”
On Friday, the Gauchos played four games during their first day of pool play. Santa Barbara defeated Pacific and Cal Baptist in their first two matches, but then fell to Harvard in their third game.
“We didn’t focus enough on the service line and that’s what got us in the Harvard game,” sophomore setter Jonah Seif said.
Aside from this loss, UCSB came back even stronger in their last game of pool play defeating top-ranked Stanford in three sets.
“The way we picked back up and beat Stanford was very encouraging for our dynamic as a team,” junior middle back Jake Staahl said.
On Saturday, the Gauchos played UC San Diego for the third place ranking in the tournament. The biggest difference between their performance in pool play and in their game on Saturday was their ability to deliver strong, consistent serves.
“In the UC San Diego game we did a lot better,” Seif said. “We were in our home gym and we served really well so that got us a lot of points.”
Senior outside hitter Matt Hanley led UCSB’s offense with 10 kills, and the Gauchos kept the pressure on San Diego by hitting .267 overall.
“It was a good start for us, we learned a lot and now we know what we need to work on,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We need to work on the mental aspect of following point to point … forgetting about the bad point and getting on to the next point.”
With five returning starters, and an overall impressive performance in their first tournament, UCSB is sure to make its presence known in the MPSF this season.
The Gauchos were ranked No. 8 in the nation in the AVCA Preseason Poll, while they were selected by conference coaches to finish seventh in the MPSF Conference.
“We have a lot more mature team this year,” Seif said. “Last year we were younger and I think we were a little bit more hot headed, this year we are a lot more stable.”
UCSB will next face UC Santa Cruz this Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of January 6th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.