Faced with the task of accomplishing a feat it has struggled with all season long, the No. 15 UCSB men’s volleyball team earned its first five-set victory last night against No. 12 Cal Baptist at Rob Gym. In a back-and-forth contest, the Gauchos were able to outlast the Lancers in a nail-biting fifth set to win 3-2.
“I liked how we played all the way through and we kept it together and we played hard, and we played to win,” sophomore opposite Matt Marsh said. “We really wanted to bring it to them and prove we can take a team down in five, and we can win and not go on another losing streak.”
With the victory, Santa Barbara moves to 5-7 overall on the season and 3-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, sitting in a two-way tie for 10th place along with Hawaii. It is UCSB’s first set of back-to-back wins in conference this season after losing six straight games. In addition, it earns the Gauchos a split on the four-game home stand.
The Lancers drop to .500 overall on the season (5-5) and sit in a three-way tie for seventh place in the conference (2-3), as they are still winless in road conference games this season.
Santa Barbara got off to a fast start in the first set and jumped out to an 8-2 lead. UCSB kept applying pressure and extended its lead, never letting the Lancers get closer than three points. With a 24-20 lead, sophomore outside hitter Austin Kingi closed out the set with his fourth kill.
Trailing early on in the second set, the deficit proved too much to overcome for the Gauchos and they lost the second set 25-20. UCSB returned the favor in the next set as it took a commanding lead from the beginning and won the set 25-19. UCSB failed to close out the game in the fourth set, losing 25-19 and setting up the fifth and final set of the match.
Santa Barbara brought the intensity in the fifth set and exploited mistakes by Cal Baptist to take a 10-8 lead. A service error by the Lancers gave the Gauchos the 15-11 victory and its first five-set win. UCSB had previously been 0-3 in five-set matches.
“It’s our first five-game win, which shows that when the time [comes] to win it, we’re starting to get a little more mature and take some smart swings and do what it takes to win,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “I think we’ll build on it and we got a tough match coming with BYU.”
Marsh and senior middle blocker Dylan Davis led the way for the Gauchos offensively, with each tallying a team-high 13 kills and Davis contributing a .571 hitting percentage, good for second on the team.
“Our team is definitely figuring it out; we’re definitely getting bigger blocking.” Marsh said. “When we make our serves, we have tough serves and it puts the other team out of system and we’re going to be a strong team. We’re getting it together.”
UCSB will now embark on its longest road trip of the season, playing their remaining games in February away from home. The Gauchos will begin the road trip against top-ranked BYU Thursday night, followed by five more matches on the road.