The No. 8 UCSB men’s volleyball team continues its dominance at home, sweeping No. 13 Cal State Northridge in three sets last night at Rob Gym.
The Gauchos advance their record to 7-3 overall and 6-3 in conference play. They are tied for fourth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation alongside Long Beach State and the University of Hawaii.
“I think we did a really good job taking care of a team that we should be able to beat every time. Too many times we play down to a level of a team and make games closer than they should be. Today we did a really great job of playing our best and putting away the match early,” junior middle blocker Jake Staahl said.
The Gauchos demonstrated a dominant performance overall last night. In three sets they only allowed for two lead changes, once in the first and once in the second set. In addition to being a strong force offensively, the Gauchos out-blocked the Matadors 8.0 to 6.0. In the first set UCSB held Northridge to a hitting clip of -.037, and in the third set they held them even at .000.
“When we serve the ball well it makes it very easy for our block and defense to do their job. When we focus on hitting our serves hard the rest just happens,” senior outside hitter Evan Licht said.
In the first set, the Gauchos held a strong lead of 17-12. Aside from the Gauchos’ energetic level of play, numerous service errors from the Matadors further allowed UCSB to jump ahead to 20-16. A combination of kills from redshirt junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen and junior outside hitter Austin Kingi closed out the set with a UCSB victory of 25-18.
The second set started out on a slower foot with the Gauchos trailing the Matadors 5-4. A quick kill from senior outside hitter Matt Hanley tied the match at 5. Kingi led the team with 12 kills last night and Hanley recorded 11 of his own, an impressive number for entering the game in the second set. A combination of back-to-back blocks from Hanley and Staahl ended the set at 25-19.
The final set was a quick one for the Gauchos. They started out the last match by taking a 5-1 lead against Northridge, but it wasn’t long before junior outside hitter Greg Faulkner stepped up, keeping the Matadors on the scoreboard. Northridge fought its way back within one point of the Gauchos at 14-13, but multiple service errors solidified the Gaucho win. A block from Licht and sophomore middle blocker Ryan Hardy closed out the game with a match score of 25-16. Hardy led USCB with a team-high five blocks on the night.
The Gauchos hope to continue their success at home when they host No. 6 Long Beach State Friday night. UCSB is now 6-1 at home.
“Well Long Beach just beat UCLA in four sets, and I think that it is pretty clear in our league how even the top teams are,” Hanley said. “I think a win against them should let the rest of the league know that we are a team that can take the title.”
Friday’s game against Long Beach is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of February 14, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.