It was a close affair in Romeoville, Illinois as a close matchup between the No. 14 UCSB men’s volleyball team and the Lewis University Flyers resulted in a 3-1 loss for the Gauchos, who are now 3-3. Santa Barbara lost by the following results: 25-23, 21-25, 19-25, and 23-25.
Ranked No. 10 in the nation, Lewis University was coming off a four-game win streak, all of which occurred at home. Meanwhile, Saturday resulted in the Gauchos second-straight loss of their five-game road trip.
In this matchup, the Gauchos were held to a .191 hitting percentage as compared to Lewis University’s .283. In terms of game leaders, All American sophomore middle blocker Keenan Sanders once again put up an outstanding performance as he led all players with 24 kills on the night.
Compared to the Flyers’ leading outside hitter, sophomore Ryan Coenen’s total of 15 kills, it was a career high day for Sanders as his previous record was 14 kills in a single match.
The first set had tensions high right away as both teams got off to booming starts. The match went back and forth as several lead changes turned into an eventual multi point lead for the Gauchos.
Ultimately, it came down to Sanders’ kill production count of nine in just the first set and clutch ace serves that would go on to set up UCSB’s first set victory by a score of 25-23. Sanders averaged a second-highest hitting percentage for his side at .302, whilst redshirt junior middle blocker Connor Drake had a team leading .375.
The host side then hit back hard as the Flyers opened the second set with a dominant 8-2 run. With help in the scoring category by Coenen’s .286 hitting percentage as well as redshirt junior opposite Mitch Perinar’s second most kill count of 12 total on .417 hitting, it proved enough for Lewis University to clinch the second set and tie the meet’s score count at 1-1.
As the Gauchos wanted to reclaim the lead, they just never found themselves back in their first set form as they allowed another scoring drought to take place early on; which resulted in Lewis University’s third set victory.
With only one set remaining and a victory needed in order to extend the match to a fifth set, the Gauchos gave it all they had left in the tank as they made the home side Flyers fight for every single point. In the end, it wasn’t enough for the Gauchos as the fourth and final set was dropped by another close score of 23-25.
The Gauchos will remain on the road as they head over to Provo, Utah to face off against No. 5 BYU at 6 p.m. on both Friday, Feb. 2, and Saturday, Feb. 3.