The No. 7 UCSB men’s volleyball team demonstrated a strong performance from start to finish last night, sweeping No. 5 UCLA for the first time in over 25 years.
After last night’s upset against UCLA, the Gauchos advance their overall record to 11-5. UCSB is currently ranked in fifth place alongside the University of Hawaii with an MPSF record of 10-5.
“Everybody did great in different ways,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “First off, all of our serve receive guys passed the ball well and we served well. We won those two battles.”
Earlier this week, Assistant Coach Cullen Irons stressed the fact that the serving and passing game would be the determinant of the UCSB and UCLA matchup. The Gauchos entered the game with this mentality and delivered, finishing the match with six service aces to UCLA’s two. The team’s passing has also been a strong determiner of their success against top-ranked teams this season. Senior libero Chad Kingi led the team with seven digs and senior opposite Evan Licht trailed behind him with six of his own.
“We passed the ball pretty well, but we served the ball really really well,” junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen said. “They didn’t have a good serving match and we did. Even though we missed a few serves, we were back there ripping them and that’s what counts.”
Aside from serving and passing, the Gauchos conquered their painful trend of slow starts. In their last match up against UCLA, the Bruins scored 10 of the first 15 points in the first set. Last night was a different story for Santa Barbara, coming out with full force and taking an early 2-0 lead. UCSB was able to close the match in three sets with significant leads in each (25-20, 25-19, 25-20).
“That was huge; we have lost some tough matches to some good teams because of coming out late,” Nielsen said.
The entire team performed well against UCLA, but it was Nielsen and Licht that teamed up to steal the show. Nielsen dominated offensively recording a team-high 13 kills with a .500 hitting percentage, a service ace and five digs. Licht made his fair contribution to the match with 12 kills and three service aces.
After last night’s loss, the Bruins fall to 13-6 overall and 10-5 in the MPSF.
“If we could get both of our wins this week, especially since we have been going 1-1 the last few weeks, it would be huge for us,” Nielsen said.
The Gauchos continue their week of blue and gold matchups with a game this Friday against UCSD. Last week, the Gauchos faced the Tritons and beat them in straight sets.
UCSD has yet to win a conference match this season with an overall record of 1-16 and a MPSF record of 0-15.
Friday’s game will take place at home in Santa Barbara at Rob Gym with a 7pm start time.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of March 6th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Camryn Brock of the Daily Nexus.