Despite last year’s disappointing finish to the season, hopes are running high for the No. 13 UCSB men’s volleyball team after a positive performance at the UCSB Asics Invitational.
The Gauchos began the season this past weekend with a loss to No. 6 UCLA, but then posted two victories against No. 5 Lewis University and No. 10 Loyola University (Illinois), finishing fifth in the tournament.
“I think [this performance] was good … we learned what it takes to really get the win,” senior middle blocker Dylan Davis said. “Against UCLA, we won the first two games and lost the next three and then coming off of that we swept the next two matches. We learned how to put a team away after you win the first and second games.”
The Gauchos concluded the UCSB Asics Invitational with a convincing 3-0 sweep against the Ramblers Saturday afternoon, defeating Loyola 25-21, 25-17 and 25-20. UCSB took the first set of the match thanks in large part to sophomore opposite Matt Marsh’s efficient offense, who totaled eight kills with a hitting percentage of .636 in the first set.
Defense was also a key component for the Gauchos as they limited Loyola to just a .084 hitting percentage over the course of the game and compiled 12.5 blocks, compared to just 5.5 for the Ramblers.
“Defense was a huge factor in that game,” senior outside hitter Miles Evans said. “We knew what to expect from that team; we were able to recognize what they were going to do almost before they did it so it was easier to play defense. It was easier to block against them.”
The win over Loyola came a day after the Gauchos split their opening games of the tournament, sweeping Lewis in three sets and losing a close five-set contest to the Bruins.
Davis was big in the second game versus the Flyers as he had seven kills in the match with six block assists. UCSB ended the first set 25-15 and Davis had three straight aces in the second set to give the Gauchos a 2-0 advantage. With the score at 22-19, UCSB held off the Flyers and closed out the final set with three straight points to win 25-19.
Against the Bruins, the Gauchos seemed ready to sweep UCLA after taking the first two sets. In a back-and-forth first set, Evans gave the Gauchos the set with his fourth kill of the game to win 27-25. UCSB won the second set 25-21 with another clinching kill for Evans, who had 11 on the day.
After a substitution by the Bruins before the third set, UCLA was able to mount a comeback, evening the match at two sets apiece after winning the third set 25-22 and dominating the fourth 25-14. Holding on to a 14-13 advantage in the final set, junior outside hitter Robart Page sealed the victory for the Bruins with his 22nd kill of the match to lead all players.
“[UCLA] made a couple substitutions going into that third game; I don’t think we were really prepared for it,” Davis said. “From that point on we just really let things get away from us; the momentum just really switched.”
UCSB now prepares for the start of conference play as it hosts Long Beach State Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. in Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 7th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.