Friday night turned out to be all that fans could hope for as the UCSB vs. UC San Diego match turned out to be a five-set thriller.
The home side Gauchos were hosting the first conference meet of the new season, as well as the commencement of the new Big West sponsorship in Men’s volleyball.
There were lead changes and extended sets galore as this game went all the way, ultimately resulting in a spectacular first conference win for UCSB.
Santa Barbara is now back to .500 on the season with a 5-5 overall mark and became the conference’s first winner. UC San Diego is now 8-7 on the year, 0-1 in the Big West.
The Gauchos started this match in fine fettle as they started the night off with a first set victory in which a late set run allowed for UCSB to pull away to the 25-20 final result.
Sophomore middle blocker Keenan Sanders got the night’s offensive show rolling as he notched a total of 8 kills in this first set alone.
The Tritons fought back in a big way as they kept the score much tighter in the second set. However, the versatility of Gaucho sophomore setter Randy DeWeese, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, was too much for San Diego as he led his team to their 2-0 lead on the night by a score of 30-28.
The third set also resulted in a 30-28 result, except this time it was in favor of the visiting UC San Diego.
Triton senior opposite/setter Tanner Syftestad helped his side to their first set victory of the night and would also go on to earn a team leading 20 total kills by the match’s end.
San Diego would eventually bring the set score to two-all after a poor fourth set from Santa Barbara.
The final score for that one ended at a sub-par 25-16 as the Gauchos never really found their momentum whilst the Tritons seemed to have everything going right their way.
This fifth and final set would be the second instance in just two days considering a similar scenario occurred on Wednesday versus Pepperdine, however, that didn’t end as planned.
Thankfully, stamina was of no concern and the Gauchos found their rhythm once more, even through a nail biting 20-18 win which granted them the overall win and 1-0 record in the Big West standings.
“We did a lot of good things, especially early on; we just got a little complacent. San Diego is a really good team, you give them an inch and they’re going to jump on it, which they did. It could have gone either way,” said head coach Rick McLaughlin.
This was a big win for UCSB not just because it was a conference match, but also because it showed it has the resiliency and stamina to hold onto a solid five-set win.
“We played a good fifth game, and that’s got to be a heartbreaking loss for them [San Diego]; we’ve been on the other end of that [Wednesday against Pepperdine],” McLaughlin said. “I think this was because we started to not serve great, they stepped up their game, and you got to give them credit…we’re still a little bit young in that area where you think you have it in your hand and then all of a sudden the team starts challenging you, we start to do some funny things. We got to stop doing that and hopefully it was a learning experience.”
Overall, it was a great showing from both teams and a night to remember for each side’s fans. Considering the Gauchos recent performances, hopefully this gritty win should ignite UCSB’s high expectations on the season once more.
“Being in this conference is the best thing for men’s volleyball…it’s awesome what the league is doing for us and I’m glad we put on a great five set show tonight,” McLaughlin said.
The Gauchos will be on the road next week as they will face off against USC on Thursday, March 1st, at 7PM for a non-conference regular season matchup.