Besides getting to spend spring break in Honolulu, the No. 8 UCSB men’s volleyball team also got to benefit from taking two games from the University of Hawaii this weekend, winning 3-1 on Friday and 3-0 on Saturday.
After beginning the season 5-11, the Gauchos have been on a tear since, winning seven straight games and nine of their last 10. The pair of wins puts the Gauchos at .500 in conference with a 10-10 record and 14-12 overall mark, propelling them to sixth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, one game behind Pepperdine for fifth.
Meanwhile, the Warriors drop to 8-14 in conference play and 9-16 overall.
With a victory already in its pocket from Friday’s match, UCSB had the opportunity to further distance itself from Hawaii with a win on Saturday.
Fueled by junior opposite Evan Licht’s 18 kills, the Gauchos delivered a performance just as impressive as they did in Friday’s match.
Taking the first set 25-21, UCSB took control early on and went on a six-point run at one point to set the tone for the duration of the match, never trailing or tying with the Warriors in the frame.
After trading points in the second set, a series of attacking errors by the Warriors and strong play offensively from Santa Barbara enabled UCSB to close out the set for a 25-20 win.
Hawaii managed to draw even with UCSB on two occasions in the third game but never pulled ahead. Licht’s performance coupled with nine kills from sophomore outside hitter Austin Kingi was too much to overcome for Hawaii.
Licht has played a crucial part in the winning streak. In the seven games, he has led the Gauchos in kills in five of them and has totaled 87 during the span.
Entering Friday’s game vying for a slot in the playoffs against a Hawaii team right on its tail, UCSB knew it had to come out with at least one victory but had the disadvantage of holding a 4-8 record on the road.
However, the Gauchos never let the Warriors establish a rhythm on offense and disrupted the flow, despite allowing a .355 hitting percentage to Hawaii in set one. UCSB was able to outlast its opponent when senior outside hitter Miles Evans delivered the final kill for a 25-23 win to steal the first frame.
Santa Barbara displayed just how potent it can be on offense in the second set, hitting for a .440 clip en route to taking the set 25-21. Freshman setter Jonah Seif distributed the ball on-point in his first two sets and finished with 13 assists in the game.
UCSB seemed to be on the verge of completing its third consecutive sweep but Hawaii prevailed with excellent defense in third set and won 25-18. The comeback attempt fell short as the Gauchos closed out the match 25-22 in the fourth game to win 3-1
The Gauchos were able to overcome a 10-6.5 difference in blocks thanks to the efficiency of Licht, Evans and senior middle blocker Dylan Davis. Combined, the trio accounted for 35 of UCSB’s 50 kills on the night.
UCSB will now get ready for its final road game of the season against Cal Baptist on Wednesday before playing its last three regular season games at home.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.