Senior outside hitter Corey Chavers picked the right night to play one of the best games of his season as he tallied 20 kills to lead the No. 6 UCSB men’s volleyball team to a huge victory over No. 4 UCLA, 3-2 with set scores of 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 19-25, 15-12.
For Chavers, this is the third time this year he has surpassed 20 kills in one match and just the seventh time overall in his illustrious four-year career.
As for his team, this is Santa Barbara’s first win over UCLA since the 2015 season. Even more impressive, this is UCSB’s ninth-consecutive victory, the longest active streak since 1992 and the best mark in the Rick McLaughlin era.
The Gauchos’ 38th overall win over national powerhouse UCLA pushes their record to a very impressive 12-3 mark and gives them even more confidence heading into their first conference tilt of the season on Friday. As for the Bruins, they fall to 10-3 on the year with all three of their losses coming to Big West opponents, Long Beach State, CSUN and UCSB tonight.
Tonight’s win over UCLA means a lot for UCSB.
The Gauchos have tallied a total of six wins over nationally ranked opponents coming into tonight, but there is something about the Bruins being the seventh that makes it so much sweeter.
It’s probably because Santa Barbara also avenged its previous loss to UCLA this season, 3-0 at Pauley Pavillion, which coincidentally was also the last time the Gauchos lost this season.
Unlike their last meeting, however, the Gauchos came out firing to start as in the first set they earned 13 kills on an impressive .524 percentage while holding the Bruins to six kills on .133.
Even on the scoreboard, UCSB pounced on the Bruins, jumping out to a very quick 8-3 lead. Still, the No. 4 in the nation would not go away, earning six of the next nine points to be down just two at 11-9.
A kill from Chavers, then consecutive service aces by the Gauchos grew their lead back to five, and from there they kept a healthy distance with the Bruins never cutting the lead past three. At 19-16, UCSB would tally six of the final eight points to win the set.
In the second, UCLA flipped the script as after being tied at 4-4 to start, the Bruins would go on to take a 10-6 lead. At 11-7, two attack errors by UCLA and then a kill by the Gauchos would put the home team within one.
However, the Bruins would then use a score nine of the next 13 points to take a commanding 20-14 lead and would eventually cruise to a win in the second set tying the match at 1-1.
In the third, both teams would again trade scores at the beginning, but UCSB would eventually jump out to an 11-6 lead thanks in large part to five attack errors from UCLA. From there, Santa Barbara was never threatened — never letting their lead get below four — and would take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set saw UCLA jump out to a 7-3 lead, but the Gauchos would tie the match at 9-9 thanks to two more kills from Chavers and one from fellow outside hitter Ryan Wilcox. The freshman also contributed a fine outing tallying 10 kills on 28 attacks. This is just the fifth time this season Wilcox has notched double-digit kills.
Three straight points from UCLA’s junior outside hitter Austin Matautin — one kill and two service aces — would push his team’s lead back to three. From there the two squads traded scores until 20-17.
A service error by UCSB followed by a kill from Bruin junior middle blocker Daenan Gyimah and another ace from Matautin would give UCLA a comfortable six-point lead which they rode to force a decisive fifth set.
In the final set, UCSB played its guts out. Down 3-1 early, the Gauchos would not go quietly, as kills from Chavers and taking advantage of UCLA’s mistakes would eventually tie the match at 8-8.
Tied at 10-10, UCSB’s freshman middle blocker Brandon Hicks came up huge with a big block to see his team take the lead. Following that, Hicks would stay in the limelight coming up with a huge service ace that was nearly too far aimed at the right corner, but somehow stayed in and gave UCSB a 12-10 lead.
Following an error, Wilcox tallied a very significant kill to extend the lead back to two. The two teams would trade points once more, but at 14-12, UCLA would register its sixth attack error of the set that would go on to be the decisive game-winning point for the Gauchos.
For weeks now, UCSB has tried to make the case that it is a legit contender. Wins against BYU, Lewis, etc. were great, but there is something about beating UCLA, a team that has won 19 National Championships, that means a bit more.
UCSB will take on UC San Diego at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 at the RIMAC Arena Box Office.
A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the Feb. 14, 2019 print edition of the Daily Nexus.