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The No. 9 UCSB men’s volleyball team picked up a pair of wins against No. 11 Hawai’i in a weekend doubleheader.
The Gauchos increase their overall record to 5-2, and their conference record to 4-2. After this weekend’s wins, UCSB is now ranked fourth in the MPSF standings.
“It’s early in the season and we are still working out the kinks, but I think we are ahead of the curve of where we were last year,” senior opposite Evan Licht said.
The Gauchos finished out the two game series by taking down the Rainbow Warriors in five on Friday night (20-25, 25-23, 25-14, 21-25, 15-13). The Gauchos were slow to start and allowed Hawai’i to take the first set, a problem that they have consistently struggled with this season.
Not daunted by this early lead, UCSB came back strong and showed its offensive dominance in the second and third sets. Licht made his presence known, recording 22 kills, the most of any Gaucho so far this season and one off his own personal best.
“It’s all about getting in a rhythm and being confident knowing that we were the better team,” Licht said.
The Gauchos took a dramatic lead in the third set, at one point dominating the Rainbow Warriors 13-3. When they fell this far behind, Hawaii’s Head Coach Charlie Wade made a n interesting call and pulled all the starters, allowing them to catch a break before the fourth set. The Gauchos would finish this set with an impressive hitting percentage of .647.
Despite their performance in the second and third set, the Gauchos encountered a roadblock in the fourth when the rested Hawai’i bench came out fighting. The Rainbow Warriors were victorious, sending the game to five.
“It was the smartest move that anyone has made in a long time and it worked because they came back in game four and got us,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We just had to regroup, we knew it was going to be a battle.”
The fifth set remained relatively close as both teams traded points back and forth. The Gauchos held a 12-11 lead before Hawai’i had two straight attacking errors, putting UCSB at match point. The Rainbow Warriors fought back making it 14-13, but a block by sophomore setter Jonah Seif would end the match at 15-13.
UCSB’s strong offensive performance was apparent in the numbers, with four different players hitting double digits in kills that night.
“We adjusted our scouting report a little bit, but we knew that if we just played hard and executed that we were the better team and that over time we were going to win,” Licht said.
On Thursday, a night earlier, the Gauchos were equally as victorious taking down Hawai’i 3-1. This game was especially important because the Gauchos were able to break the trend of slow starts and get a win in the first set.
In this match the Gauchos had seven service aces to Hawaii’s zero, and out blocked the Rainbow Warriors 12 to 7.
The Gauchos extended their series win streak over Hawai’i to seven games, and they now hold an impressive 5-1 record at home.
“A 2-0 week is always awesome. We have two down days to rest up and get ready to go and play USC,” Licht said.
UCSB next plays USC on Thursday.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of February 3, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.