RIVERSIDE, Calif. – In their first match of April, the No. 7 Gauchos were on the losing end of a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the No. 8 Cal Baptist Lancers, putting a halt to their season-best seven match winning streak.
UCSB – who had entered the match with the program's longest winning streak since 1996 – lost on Wednesday night for the first time since Mar. 1, a span of seven matches, bringing their record to 14-13, 10-11 in the MPSF. With the loss, the Gauchos have fallen out of contention for one of the top four spots in the conference and with it the right to home-court advantage in the first round of the MPSF playoffs. Still, the Gauchos clinched a playoff spot over the weekend and will assuredly see the postseason after missing out last year.
Cal Baptist improved to 15-12, 11-10 with the win, but are ineligible for the postseason in their first season as MPSF members.
Junior opposite Evan Licht paced the attack for the Gauchos, recording 13 kills in the loss. It was the ninth time in the past 11 matches that Licht has led the squad in kills. He was also effective with his jump serve, picking up his 19th ace of the season. Austin Kingi, Jonah Seif, and Grant Goswiller joined him in the ace department.
Sophomore middle blocker Jake Staahl made the most of his 10 attack attempts, finishing with seven kills and a .600 hitting percentage. Senior Dylan Davis, who entered the match with the highest hitting percentage in the country at .467, struggled a bit, hitting just .091 on five kills.
Seif, the UCSB setter, recorded 36 assists in the three frames, while libero Chad Kingi finished with five digs.
While UCSB hit a respectable .277 on the night as a team, it was overshadowed by Cal Baptist's .414 clip. Guilherme Koepp (13 kills, .460 hitting percentage) and Aaron McAlmont (10 kills, .600) were both extremely efficient, while Levi Cabral (four aces, 11 kills, four blocks) caused problems for the Gauchos from all areas of the court.
Three of Cabral's aces came late in the first game, where Cal Baptist went on a 6-1 run after the score was tied 19-19 to take the game. Weston Nielsen's service error at 18-19 put Cabral at the service line, where he rattled off three aces in a row. Austin Kingi would put down a kill to make the score 22-20, but then three consecutive errors from the Gauchos (one serving, two attacking) would give the game to the Lancers.
The second set was wide open offensively, as the teams' combined .527 hitting percentage would attest. Neither side had a lead greater than three at any point in the frame, leading to a 24-24 tie. At that point, a UCSB blocking error and a game-clinching kill from Koepp would put the Gauchos in a 2-0 hole.
Cal Baptist would continue their hot hitting in the third, recording a .409 hitting percentage for the game to earn the sweep.
On Friday night, the Gauchos return home to host the No. 1 BYU Cougars at the Thunderdome. Though their overall win streak has been snapped, UCSB is still sporting a seven-match home win streak. For tickets to any and all of the three remaining home contests, click here.