Coming off a rough loss at Stanford just over a week ago, the No. 8 UCSB men’s volleyball team returned home in big fashion, beating USC and No. 15 Cal Baptist both in straight sets.
With the pair of victories, the Gauchos improve to 9-5 in the MPSF, 13-6 overall, are currently fifth in the conference standings, two games behind No. 4 UCLA going into next week’s pair of games against the Bruins. USC and Cal Baptist both fell to 3-11 in MPSF play, but the latter has enjoyed much more success this season, as the two teams sit at 3-13 and 8-11 overall, respectively.
“It was important to train hard and play well last week after a very disappointing outing at Stanford, but our guys responded very well with a pair of sweeps,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said.
UCSB hosted the Trojans on Wednesday and were coming off a 3-0 loss at Stanford last week. The Gauchos managed to get back to their winning ways thanks to a huge performance from redshirt junior outside hitter Jacob Delson, who registered a season-high 18 kills, half of which came in the second set.
The USC match didn’t go as well for redshirt junior opposite Matt Marsh however, as he twisted his ankle coming down from a block halfway through the second set, sidelining him for the rest of the tie. He also missed the team’s match versus Cal Baptist, but McLaughlin is hopeful he’ll be ready for the two upcoming meetings with UCLA.
Apart from the injury to one of its star players, Santa Barbara couldn’t have asked for much better of a night, easing its way to a straight set victory by scores of 25-19, 25-19, and 25-21.
“I think we looked great,” redshirt senior Austin Kingi said. “Jonah was putting up some great balls for us, Delson is swinging high and hard, and our middles are connecting perfectly.”
Nonetheless, it was Kingi who led the Gauchos in kills Friday night against Cal Baptist with 12, helping his team to their second sweep of the week (25-20, 25-16, 25-20). The outside hitter has been one of UCSB’s top performers on both offense and defense, averaging 2.39 kills and 1.33 digs per set.
“My hits have been feeling better and I’ve been feeling healthy overall,” Kingi said. “I’m getting my swing back after six months out.”
The story of the match, however, was true freshman Corey Chavers, who put on the best performance of his debut season while filling in for the injured Marsh. The first-year player tallied 10 kills, his highest total since the season opener, adding on a season-high six digs.
“It’s nothing new,” Kingi said. “We all know Corey’s a big offensive player, and when Marsh is down, it’s great to have another weapon on the floor.”
The standout youngster was one part of a solid team match for the Gauchos, who eased past Cal Baptist. Senior setter Jonah Seif did his usual job, racking up 35 assists, including a couple jaw dropping passes that reminded the home crowd why he was named to the All-American second team last year.
After dispatching USC and CBU, two of the bottom three teams in the MPSF standings, UCSB will prepare to face its toughest string of matches of the season. Seven of its final ten games come against teams ranked in the top ten of the AVCA Division I-II Coaches Poll.
“The true test will be when we hit the road again Wednesday to play at UCLA, and it’s another chance for us to see if we are ready to compete with a top five team,” McLaughlin said.
Up next for the Gauchos are two matches against the Bruins, the first at UCLA on Wednesday at 7 p.m., the second at Rob Gym on Friday at 7 p.m.