Malibu – The UCSB men’s volleyball team’s magical season concluded Thursday at Pepperdine in the Final Four of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament.
The No. 4 Gauchos lost 3-1 to No. 2 Hawaii by a score of 27-30, 31-29, 29-31, 26-30 in front of 1,127 fans at Firestone Fieldhouse. Santa Barbara finishes its season at 18-11, ending one of its best seasons in recent memory.
“I’m pretty pleased with the year we had,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “This team put in a lot of hard work and was one of my favorites in my years here.”
In his final match for Santa Barbara, senior outside hitter Andy Rivera tallied a match-high 21 kills, hitting .361 and posting eight digs on defense. Senior setter Britt Galang hit .571 and registered 54 assists. Senior opposite Ben Koski added 15 kills and nine digs.
Santa Barbara built an imposing 10-5 lead in the first game. Hawaii fought back, however, and went on a 10-2 run to recapture the momentum and a 15-12 lead. The Gauchos couldn’t crawl back after hitting just .094 in the game. Hawaii junior outside hitter Eyal Zimet posted five kills to pace the Rainbow Warriors.
Game two was a dogfight. Building a 17-14 lead behind the offensive brilliance of Rivera and Koski, the Gauchos picked up their defensive intensity. At game point, freshman outside hitter Nathan Wack stepped to the service line and made his first appearance of the evening. Wack fired a shot that dribbled over the top of the net, and gave UCSB the point and the game.
In game three, the Gauchos never led. Hawaii dominated the post, registering 4.5 pivotal game changing blocks. The Gauchos rallied late and stopped Hawaii at 29-27, its first game point. The late pressure proved too little too late, and Hawaii went on to win the game and take a commanding 2-1 lead in the match.
Warrior freshman outside hitter Jose Delgado sparked the offensive surge. In just two games, Delgado drove home 11 kills and hit a consistent .412.
“Every time I go in there, I give it my hardest effort,” Delgado said. “It’s the little things that made us successful tonight.”
Koski marched out in the fourth and helped foster an 18-13 lead for UCSB. Hawaii, powered by a 13-5 run after that point, couldn’t be contained. At match point, junior All-MPSF selection and Hawaii outside hitter Costas Theocharidis registered the winning kill for the Rainbow Warriors.
Hawaii moves on to play No. 1 Pepperdine on Saturday night for the MPSF Championship. Pepperdine defeated BYU 3-1 in Thursday’s first semi-final match to move into the finals.