After five total wins in a row, and three of which were clean sweeps, the Gauchos are now officially on fire. Their fine form and recent string of dominant performances are now beginning to cement their status as a top 15 men’s volleyball program in the nation. Considering their most recent conquest was against a top 10 team, this helps their case for elite play even more.
On Saturday night, No. 14 UCSB hosted No. 10 Ball State for a non-league matchup as the two schools met historically for the first time. Ultimately, it would be the home side that would come out on top as the Gauchos bested the Cardinals after an entertaining encounter which resulted in a 3-0 clean sweep.
Heading into the weekend’s matchup, head coach Rick McLaughlin had this to say, “they’re a different team than IPFW, since they focus on different players, they set their opposite more rather than their outsides. So they’re a little bit different and their offenses are a little bit different, but we’ll be ready for them. We have good film and we’ll do our studying.”
Quite clearly, this was the Gauchos’ show as the visiting Cardinals never found their rhythm throughout it all. Ball State kept it fairly close in the first half of the first set, but a five point run in favor of the host soon had UCSB up 20-9. A flurry of service errors and defensive mistakes by the visitors would then grant the 1st set win to the Gauchos by a score of 25-13.
The second set started off with a 6-1 sprint by UCSB, but Ball State would soon quell that momentum by the halfway mark. Unfortunately, it appeared that the visitors’ timeouts weren’t very beneficial as they once again allowed the Gauchos to recollect themselves and go on yet another run. Improvements were made, but the Cardinals dropped the set again which resulted in a 17-25 loss.
The third and final set proved to be the closest and most competitive one of the night as Ball State almost always kept it within 4. Still, the errors never stopped mounting and plays abruptly vanished at and away from the net. Overall, the passing was never quite there for the Cardinals throughout the matchup, and UCSB made them pay for it every time as they earned the final 25-19 set which wrapped up the clean sweep.
Final stat tallies showed the difference in quality as UCSB hit for .329 whilst Ball State was subpar at .071; the ace count was also very one sided as the former put up 8 to the latter’s 0. Gaucho sophomore middle blocker Keenan Sanders had a game leading 14 kills on the night, and sophomore libero Grady Yould had 9 of the team’s 35 total digs.
Tune in next week when Big West Conference play returns, as the Gauchos take on No. 1 Long Beach State in back to back 7 PM meets starting on the road this Thursday, March 15th, and then at home on Friday, March 16.