The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos hosted the No. 5 Stanford University Cardinals at home on Jan. 12-13. The Gauchos lost both matches: the first one, they lost in 5 sets, going 2-3, while the other only went 4 sets, going 1-3.
In the first set of the first match, the Gauchos hit the scoreboard early as they went up 7-3 for the first 10 points. Stanford did not let the lead get out of hand as they fought off the early deficit and took the lead at 12-10. Both teams went back and forth through the set as the match was tied at 18. The Cardinals ran away with it from there and secured the first set at 25-21.
Going into the second set, both teams went point for point, but the Gauchos found themselves with a 4-point lead after junior setter Jack Walmer created 4 continuous attack errors, giving the Gauchos an 11-8 lead.
Stanford cut down on the mistakes and tied it up at 18 again. UCSB then went on a 3-point run to regain the lead at 21-19. Stanford proved a formidable opponent as they went on a 7-1 run to steal the second set at 25-22 and went up 2-0 in the match.
The Cardinals looked to take the match in three sets as they went up 3-0 to start the set. UCSB did not go down quickly as they tied it and took the lead at 10-8. From there, the set continued point for point until the Gauchos went on a 9-3 hot streak to earn their first set of the match with 25-20. Junior opposite Geste Bianchi ended the set with an electric service ace.
UCSB looked to continue the momentum from the third set as they scored first in the fourth set. The set was tied at 4, where both teams went back and forth in points until the Gauchos went on a 4-point run. Sophomore outside hitter and opposite Owen Birg was credited for 3 of the 4 points in the run.
Stanford responded with their run, scoring 3 continuous points and almost closing the gap to make it 18-19. UCSB successfully pushed the match into 5 sets, taking the fourth set 25-22.
In a winner-take-all set, many runs were made as the Gauchos took a 5-2 lead before Stanford took the lead on 6 unanswered points to make it 8-5. UCSB responded with their run and retook the lead with 5 unanswered points, making it 10-9. The set went point for point until it was all tied up at 14. Stanford took the whole match as they scored the last 2 points to secure the 16-14 set win.
The following day, Stanford did not mess around in the first set as they went up 0-3 to start the set. Looking to bounce back, the Gauchos tied it at 4 points, where they then went point for point through the entire set. Stanford took a 3-point lead late and maintained the lead to secure the first set 25-22.
UCSB took control of the second set as they took an early 3-point lead, making it 6-3. The Cardinals cut the Gauchos’ margin of a lead, but UCSB maintained a point lead until it was all tied up at 16. It looked bleak for the Gauchos as the Cardinals were 1 point away from securing the set as it was 21-24.
However, the Gauchos showed their fight as they scored 5 unanswered points, taking the second set 26-24. Junior outside hitter Sam Collins was credited for 4 of the 5 points in the run.
After Stanford let it escape, they were on a mission in the third set as they went up 10-4. UCSB battled back and cut the 6-point lead to tie it at 20. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, the Cardinals took the set as they went on a 5-3 run to win 25-23.
In the final set, both teams went point for point throughout the whole set. Stanford outlasted UCSB in the back-and-forth frenzy, taking the fourth set at 25-21 and back-to-back matches against the Gauchos.
The Gauchos are set to return to Robertson Gym on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 19-20, to face the No. 9 Brigham Young University Cougars. The matches will kick off at 6 p.m. on both nights and can be viewed live on ESPN+.
A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the Jan. 18, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.