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After a strong third-place finish in last week’s Asics Invitational, the No. 10 UCSB men’s volleyball team continues a high level of play, sweeping both Concordia and UC Santa Cruz in straight-set wins during the final week of exhibition play.
The Gauchos now hold an overall record of 3-0 while Concordia and UCSC dropped to 3-2 and 0-1, respectively.
“We have been staying really close to teams, keeping positive and we have been serving the ball really well,” sophomore setter Jonah Seif said. “We know that when we are serving well, we can beat teams.”
The Gauchos made it look easy, taking down Concordia in three quick frames on Friday night in front of a home crowd at Rob Gym (25-19, 25-20, 25-17). Junior opposite hitter Weston Nielson led the offense with 11 kills, gaining five in each of his first two sets, while junior opposite Evan Licht followed behind with 10 kills of his own.
In the first set, the Eagles jumped out ahead with a 3-1 lead as a result of errors made by UCSB. The Gauchos made a few adjustments and bounced back with confidence, taking a 10-7 lead and later winning the set.
“It’s January and it is still early in the season, so we’re not expecting perfect results yet,” Licht said. “We are just hoping to grow with each match until April.”
Although the Gauchos maintained the lead throughout the rest of the match, senior opposite Harrison Carroll kept Concordia on the scoreboard finishing with a team high of 11 kills.
UCSB finished with an overall hitting percentage of .500 and they held the Eagles to a hitting percentage of .177.
“We played a strong match tonight,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We still have some work to do to get ready for conference, but this was a step in the right direction.”
The Gauchos had an equally impressive performance earlier in the week when they played Division III opponent UC Santa Cruz in their first exhibition game of the season.
UCSB’s attack was strong from the start, finishing the first frame with a hitting percentage of .500 in comparison to UCSC’s .038. Senior middle blocker Ryan Thompson and junior outside hitter Matt Hanley led with eight kills each. These kills were made possible by Seif, who controlled the center of the offense with a team high of 35 assists.
In addition to the attack, the Gauchos also demonstrated a strong defensive performance with match-high numbers coming from multiple players. Seif, Thompson, Nielson and sophomore middle blocker Ryan Hardy all finished with three blocks apiece.
The Gauchos took down the Banana Slugs in three sets (25-13, 25-20, 25-19) and had an overall team hitting percentage of .420 and totaled seven team blocks.
The MPSF conference schedule gets under way this upcoming Friday and Saturday as the Gauchos take on Pacific and Stanford at Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of January 13th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson of the Daily Nexus.