Gauchos Swept by Pepperdine

Chris Hartig (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Chris Hartig (Photo by Tony Mastres)

No. 14 UCSB dropped their fifth straight match on Wednesday night, falling to the seventh-ranked Pepperdine Waves in straight sets, 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 26-24).

Now 0-4 on the homestand, they run the risk of going winless throughout their current five-match spell at home. USC will visit Santa Barbara on Friday in UCSB's last chance at earning a home win in the month of March.

The Gauchos used 14 of their 15 eligible players on Wednesday night, the highest amount of players inserted into the lineup by UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin this season, in an attempt to inject fresh blood into a discouraged side.

Junior outside hitter Miles Evans, one of only two Gauchos to play in all three games, led his squad with nine kills on 17 swings for a respectable .294 hitting percentage.

The Waves came out on fire the in the first game, hitting for a blistering .632 hitting percentage as a team. They only conceded two points to the Gauchos while on the serve receive, and consistenly put pressure on the UCSB middles.

The Gauchos responded with a .071 hitting percentage and 10 attacking errors, four of which were on Pepperdine blocks. Evans had six of his nine kills in the first frame.

McLaughlin made wholesale changes to the lineup to start the second game, but to no avail, as the Waves once again pounced on the Gauchos. The Pepperdine block restricted the Gauchos to a -.150 hitting percentage in the middle set.

Changes were in store again for the Gauchos lineup in the third game, and this time the change had a positive effect. Senior outside hitter Blaine Nielsen led a balanced UCSB attack by picking up four kills in the game on just seven swings.

Freshman opposite Chris Hartig, receiving extended playing time for the first time since Feb. 1 at USC, put down three kills on eight swings.

Miles Evans matched Hartig's kill output, and freshman middle blocker Jake Staahl picked up a pair of quick-strike kills and teamed up for a pivotal block with Hartig. That foursome spurred the Gauchos to a .407 team hitting percentage in the third set.

The Gauchos battled the Waves to the bitter end in the final game, forcing six ties and a pair of lead changes. Down 17-20, UCSB made Pepperdine sweat by claiming back-to-back points to bring the score within one. 

A Miles Evans kill forced the first of two late Pepperdine timeouts. At one point up 24-23 and on the verge of claiming the game, Pepperdine saw consecutive kills from Josh Taylor, Matt Tarantino, and Maurice Torres clinch the game and the match.

Despite the loss, UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin was encouraged by his squad's third set performance.

"The last game was our best for sure. We just need to keep improving. Our guys have been lacking confidence lately, so any little victories like that will pick us up for sure."

The Waves received standout attacking performances from a pair of players. Maurice Torres led the team with 16 kills on a .417 hittin

g percentage. Not to be outdone, Josh Taylor put down 14 kills and tied for the team lead with Chase Ross's .500 hitting percentage. As a team, Pepperdine outblocked UCSB 8.0 to 3.0 and finished with a lofty .442 hitting percentage.

Only three home matches remain for the Gauchos in the regular season. Their next match, as alluded to before, will be against USC on Friday at the Thunderdome. For tickets to all remaining home matches, click here.