After winning back to back home games last week, the no. 10 UCSB men’s volleyball team headed back on the road, knocking off no. 9 Pepperdine in a narrow 3-2 win Wednesday before losing in straight sets to no. 4 and MPSF leaders Stanford on Friday.
The loss at Stanford (19-25, 20-25, 8-25) ended the Gauchos’ three game losing streak and Santa Barbara now sits at 7-5 conference, 11-6 overall. With the win over Pepperdine (20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 29-31, 15-13 earlier in the week, UCSB was able to leapfrog the Waves for fifth in the league standings.
Stanford is now tied with Long Beach State atop the MPSF with a 10-2 conference record, 12-2 overall. Pepperdine, who now find themselves on a three-game losing streak, are 5-5 in league, 6-5 overall.
Against Pepperdine, the Gauchos had a rough first set, falling behind 10-3 early on, eventually losing the game 25-20. As the game went on, UCSB took a hold of the match behind redshirt senior outside hitter Austin Kingi, who tallied a team-high 17 kills, rounding out his first double-double of the season with 12 digs.
Two others added double-digit kills for Santa Barbara, including redshirt junior outside hitter Jacob Delson with 15 kills and redshirt freshman middle blocker Henri Cherry. Senior setter Jonah Seif added 48 assists along with six kills.
“We won the serving and passing battles and that usually results in a win,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “After a very slow start, it was good to see the guys keep competing and figure out a way to win.”
Kingi was the man of the night, and in the 60-point fourth set, the outside hitter notched seven kills and a service ace. The Gauchos’ victory, however, was overshadowed by the Stanford match two days later, as UCSB was unable to follow up a key win against Pepperdine with another positive result.
“I think we played well at Pepperdine and showed that we can respond when down a set, but it was bittersweet when we played the way we played at Stanford,” Delson said.
Delson and co. struggled to get anything going against the Cardinal, who forced their visitors to 18 attack errors and 13 service errors to Stanford’s six and eight, respectively. The Gauchos, also, for just the second time all season, finished a match without a ten-kill game from any of its players.
McLaughlin credited his side’s loss to the hosts though, who he believed to be the better side.
“Stanford beat us in every possible. Serving, passing, attacking, blocking, defense and most importantly, they competed much harder than we did,” McLaughlin said. “They are a much better team than we are right now, but I look forward to the rematch in April.”
The players were also aware that their play wasn’t up to the necessary level to compete with Stanford, who, as the season has played out thus far, will be a top contender for a national championship.
“We didn’t come out of the gate punching and waited until we were down a couple points to kick into gear, and in volleyball a point can decide a set, so we have to step it up,” Delson said.
Splitting their road trip 1-1, McLaughlin’s team solidified their place in the standings at fifth, and despite the loss at Stanford, are only three games behind the conference leaders.
Next up for the Gauchos is a pair of home games against USC on Wednesday at 7pm and no. 15 Cal Baptist on Friday at 7pm, both at Rob Gym.