Santa Barbara, Calif. – UCSB fought hard against No. 2 UC Irvine on Wednesday night at Rob Gym. Each set came down to wire, with each set decided by only two points (23-25, 25-27, 26-28). The tough loss drops the Gauchos to a 3-7 overall, 1-5 MPSF record and advances the Anteaters to 8-3, 5-3.
The final points of each set were crucial because of the close score. In the first set, the teams were tied 22 all when UC Irvine went on a two-point streak. Gaucho Austin Kingi nailed a kill, creating a mere one-point deficit. However, the Gauchos could not hold on as UC Irvine's Kevin Tillie's kill ended the set. The second set followed the intensity of the first, having teams in a deadlock at 23-23, 24-24, and 25-25. In this set, the Anteaters capitalized on the Gaucho's final service and attacking errors.
If the first two sets were not close enough, the two teams kept the match tight what would end up becoming the final set. It looked like the Gauchos could start a comeback as they entered the final minutes with a two-point lead at 21-19. Yet the Anteaters would not give and tied the set at 22-22. The two teams traded points until the score was tied 26 all. UC Irvine capped the match with kills from Zack La Cavera and Tillie.
The high intensity of the game led to remarkable individual performances by both teams. UC Irvine's Tillie was the frontrunner of kills (18) for the match. Teammates La Cavera and Connor Hughes put down 13 and 10 kills respectively. Libero Michael Brinkley scooped up 12 digs throughout the night.
For the Gauchos, Miles Evans knocked down eight kills, ending the match with an impressive .444% hitting percentage. Even more, Evans did not have a single hitting error tonight. Matt Marsh pounded 14 kills while Austin Kingi had 12. As a team, UCSB totaled 34 digs, with five players contributing at least five apiece. The Gauchos had just one passing error the entire night.
"This was definitely our best passing match of the year," commented UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin.
The Gauchos need to ride the positive aspects of the game into their next one when they host UC San Diego on Friday night at Rob Gym.