Santa Barbara, Calif. – In the last home game of the regular season, UCSB fell to the visiting Pepperdine Waves in four sets. The Gauchos finish the regular season at 15-15 overall, 11-13 MPSF. Pepperdine's record improved to 14-11, 13-11.
Game scores for the match went 25-20, 21-25, 19-25, 23-25.
The Gauchos came out strong in the first set, slamming down a total of 16 kills. Evan Licht put down an incredible nine kills on just 11 swings, including the set-winning kill. Austin Kingi teamed up with Jake Staahl to pound down two hard blocks together. The Gauchos started to pull away at 16-14, and took nine out the final fifteen points.
However, the Waves bounced back and took an early command of the second set. UCSB started to gain momentum in the final points, but could not overtake Pepperdine's lead. Pepperdine channeled their momentum and started to pull away early in the third. The Gauchos reduced the lead to one at 17-18, but the Waves would not let them back into the match. The Waves took the third set just as they had the second.
UCSB needed a win in the fourth set to stay in the game. Still, Pepperdine was making waves and would not let up. The Waves took yet another early lead, forcing UCSB to play catch-up once again. A big kill from Dylan Davis put the Gauchos within one at 17-18. The kill sent a surge of energy through the Gauchos and they were able to tie the score at 21 all. However, Pepperdine's Maurice Torres dashed UCSB's hopes of a comeback with a game-winning kill.
Maurice Torres and Josh Taylor led the Waves to victory. Torres ended the night with 17 kills, and Taylor was right behind him at 16. Torres and Ryan Plueger led their defense with seven digs apiece.
Even though the Waves looked like they dominated the court, UCSB looked stronger on paper. The Gauchos hammered 54 kills-to the Waves' 47. UCSB outdug the opposition 35 to 29 and even recorded one more service ace than the Waves (five to four). Per usual, Evan Licht stepped up yet again to set a season-high record of 23 kills. Austin Kingi also had a great night, picking up 13 kills and seven kills.
As the final home game of the season, four seniors played their last game in the Thunderdome. Senior Dylan Davis hit a .571 clip at ended the game with 10 kills. Senior Grant Goswiller was a major presence on the defensive end, sweeping up seven digs. Senior Matt Silver entered the game to serve for the Gauchos.
UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin commented on the Gauchos' playoff credentials, saying "we have to be the team that makes the other team beat us. We know when we play well that we can play with anyone."
The Gauchos will be heading to the playoffs next Saturday night on April 20th. UCSB, the seventh seed, will travel to face UC Irvine, the second seed and defending national champions.