One game down, the Gauchos move forward with everything on the line. The No. 5 UCSB men’s volleyball team swept Cal Baptist University and clinched a playoff spot last night and will now shift its main focus to a much-anticipated rematch against No. 3 BYU.
After last night’s quick 3-0 match, the Gauchos get back on track to host their final game of the regular season. With a victory over Cal Baptist, UCSB advances to a record of 16-8 overall. UCSB is ranked fifth in the MPSF with a conference record of 15-8.
“Clinching a playoff spot is definitely a weight off of our shoulders,” sophomore setter Jonah Seif said. “We want to keep pushing, we aren’t satisfied with just making playoffs again like last year. We really want to go all the way to the championship game and win it.”
The Gauchos proved their desire for a playoff position early on against Cal Baptist. UCSB had a collective hitting percentage of above .400 for the entire game, but came out of the gates especially energized hitting .615 in the first set. A large contributor to the Gauchos’ dominant offense was their performance from the service line.
“That has been a strength for us all year,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We keep getting better at serve receive and at our serve.”
UCSB maintained dominance over Cal Baptist throughout the entire game. By only allowing four short lead changes in three sets, the Gauchos outnumbered the Lancers in blocks, digs, service aces and recorded an average hitting percentage of .557 to their .158. Weston Nielsen led the offense on the night with a team high 12 kills.
“We got a win tonight which is good, but we need to clean it up a little bit more,” McLaughlin said.
After last night’s loss, the Lancers drop to a record of 4-23 overall (2-21 MPSF).
With Cal Baptist behind them, UCSB prepares for a crucial game against BYU. This game is especially important for the Gauchos for multiple reasons. First, if they pull off a victory against BYU they keep their hopes alive of finishing top four in the MPSF. With a top four finish comes the privilege of hosting the first round of playoffs. With UCSB’s consistent record of 12-2 at home in Rob Gym, this situation would be ideal.
“I think it would take a miracle to get a match at home first round, but there is a chance and we are hoping for that,” McLaughlin said.
In addition to pulling off a top finish, the Gauchos are anxious to host BYU to prove themselves after falling short to the Cougars by two points a few weeks back.
“We are going to have a good film session and a strong day of practice before BYU,” Seif said. “We know who their hitters are, but once again, we have to serve tough to knock them off the net.”
Friday night’s game against BYU, which will be UCSB’s senior night, is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of April 10, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.