It wasn’t pretty, but it was a still a win for the No. 7 UCSB men’s volleyball team. Coming off two straight losses, the Gauchos bounced back for a 3-1 win against USC last night at home.
Despite earning the much needed win to stop its two-game skid, UCSB let USC get back into the game, mostly attributed to its 17 attacking errors and 18 service errors.
“It’s really important [we won]; unfortunately we didn’t play our best. [Head Coach] Rick McLaughlin was saying if we play like that, we’re going to lose,” red-shirt sophomore middle blocker Jake Staahl said. “So it’s very important that we won today, but we need to really kick it into gear if we want to beat other teams in the postseason.”
The win puts UCSB above the .500 mark at 15-14 overall and 11-12 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Currently in the eighth slot in the conference, Santa Barbara continues its success at home and improves to an 11-5 record at the Thunderdome. More significantly, the win keeps UCSB’s hopes alive of getting a higher seed in the playoffs with just one game remaining in the regular season.
UCSB came out aggressively in the first set and had a commanding lead, taking care of business despite USC making a late run in the game to make things interesting. Nevertheless, Santa Barbara won 25-23.
With Southern Cal having only a .156 hitting percentage in the second frame, Santa Barbara exploited the Trojan defense and went various runs throughout the set. The Gauchos took a 2-0 advantage by beating USC 25-19.
Despite losing the third set 25-21, the Gauchos regrouped and handed the Trojans a 25-17 defeat in the fourth set to win 3-1. UCSB was on point defensively in the fourth and held USC to a .000 hitting percentage.
Junior middle blocker Evan Licht continues playing at a high caliber level and had seven assists and four blocks to go along with a team-high 19 kills. The 19 kills makes it the sixth straight game he has recorded double-digit kills and the eighth time out of the last 10 games he has led the team.
“He brings a level headedness to the court that really helps everyone. We kind of feed off his calmness at times,” freshman setter Jonah Seif said. “He doesn’t get dazed when he starts making errors; he stays focused and it really helps the team.”
With an impressive .800 hitting percentage, Staahl delivered a clutch performance for the Gauchos and provided defense down the middle of the court with eight total blocks.
“Staahl jumps a lot higher than [USC’s] middles do, so I just really tried to put the ball as high as I could for him,” Seif said. “He just hit over them, he had a really good night.”
With only one game left in the regular season against No. 6 Pepperdine, the game has high implications for the Gauchos as they are still in contention of improving their seeding by as many as two slots. Currently, UCSB is half a game behind Stanford for the sixth seed and one game behind Pepperdine for fifth.
“If we can come out and beat Pepperdine Friday that’ll mean a lot to our team because Pepperdine is a great team,” Staahl said.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, UCSB was in the midst of a three game losing streak and lost to the Waves in three sets. In that game, Santa Barbara was unable to stop the impressive offense Pepperdine displayed.
The Waves controlled every facet of the game and hit for a .420 clip and outdug UCSB by a 22-14 margin.
UCSB will honor its three seniors before its final home game of the regular season, including team captain Davis and Evans.
Friday’s match against Pepperdine is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of April 11th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus