The Gauchos defeated the Cal State Northridge Matadors in straight sets on Wednesday night, giving the UCSB just their second sweep of the young season. Though the home team won all three games, each individual game was excruciatingly close- game scores for the match were 25-23, 26-25, 25-23. With the victory, UCSB leaps over Cal State Northridge in the MPSF standings to eight place with their 2-5 conference record, tied with Pacific and Friday night's opponent- Long Beach State. UCSB's overall record improves to 4-7. With the loss, Cal State Northridge fell to 4-8, 2-6.
The Gauchos were able to win all three games despite being outhit in all but the final set. For the match, UCSB outhit CSUN .213 to .200.
UCSB was led by junior outside hitter Miles Evans, who chipped in six digs along with his match-high 16 kills. Freshman outside hitter Kevin Donohue had a third-consecutive strong match, turning in 11 kills on 27 attacks. Both hitters recorded a pair of service aces.
Freshman middle blocker Jake Staahl endured a tough night at the service line, but made up for it with a career-high 7 kills with an outstanding .600 hitting percentage. Sophomore libero Chad Kingi had one of his better matches as well, tying his career-high of 14 digs while singlehandedly extending several rallies in the latter two games.
The Matadors were led by German import Julius Hoefer, who had a team-high 11 kills and match-high 5 blocks.
In the first game, the teams more or less traded points for the first half of the game. With the score tied 12-12, a kill from freshman outside hitter Weston Nielsen sparked a small run that would prove decisive to the home squad. A kill from Miles Evans and a CSUN attacking error would stretch the lead to three points, a lead which was never relinquished. Nielsen had four of his five kills in the initial game.
The second game, in contrast to the first, came down to the wire. Evans saved his best work for the middle game, picking up seven kills in the frame. With the Gauchos down 24-23, Miles rallied off three straight kills to claim the set.
The two teams went almost point-for-point in the decisive game, as the set featured 17 ties and six lead changes. UCSB had their highest single-set hitting percentage of the match, swinging at a .333 clip to the Matadors' .111. With the score tied 23-23, a Miles Evans kill set up the game clinching play: a high set from Julius Hoefer that bounced off the rafters of Rob Gym, proving unreachable for the visiting side.
UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin praised the composure and improving resiliency of his squad after the match, saying "We had a few bad passing runs tonight, but we bounced right back each time. I don't think that would have happened a few weeks ago. The tougher team usually wins, and that was us tonight."
The Gauchos will look to keep the momentum going as they travel to Long Beach State on Friday to take on the 49ers. Next week, McLaughlin's squad will play a pair of matches against Taylor Sander and the BYU Cougars in Provo, Ut.