The No. 9 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos defeated the No. 11 Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors in a strong, yet close, performance (25-19, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23). The Gauchos improve to 4-2 overall, 3-2 MPSF and snap their two-match losing streak after being swept at UCLA and dropping a heartbreaker in five sets to UC Irvine.
UCSB broke their trend of starting games late with an impressive first set. The set was up for grabs as the two well-matched teams traded points. Sophomore Setter Jonah Seif broke the deadlock with a service ace to give the Gauchos an 18-17 lead before Hawai'i called a timeout. Undeterred, UCSB continued their motivated style of play to grab three more points, capped off by an Austin Kingi and Ryan Thompson block. Kingi was also responsible for five kills off eight attempts in the set while Thompson got a hand on two additional blocks. Hawai'i was again forced to take a timeout. UCSB kept up the intensity and finished the set with dominant services from senior opposite Evan Licht. At 23-19 Gauchos, Licht's first serve was too hot to handle for the Rainbow Warrior defense. The miss-hit ball sailed over the net for an easy slam by Jake Staahl. Licht's sealed the set win with an authoritative fastball passed Hawai'i.
The second set was contested with an early 4-4 tie. Thompson and Kingi teamed up for another block to break the tie, and then Licht added his own solo block to put the Gauchos ahead 9-6. However, the UCSB drive stalled with hitting errors, which enabled Hawai'i to tie the match at 13. Despite a UCSB timeout, the Rainbow Warriors were able to strike for six straight points. Not even four team blocks in the set could prevent Hawai'i from taking the set 25-21. Brook Sedore for the Rainbow Warriors carried his team with 19 total kills for the match followed by Sinisa Zarkovic with 12 kills.
Hawai'i kept the pressure on UCSB in the third set by jumping out to a 10-6 lead. The Gauchos found their intensity, as they had late in the first set, to turn a five point scoring streak and take the lead 11-10. This time UCSB relied on their service game, landing four aces in the set, In particular, Staahl's two services aces were critical to the early comeback and required Hawai'i to burn their first timeout. The third set also witnessed the Gauchos unleash their offensive prowess at the net. Matt Hanley was subbed in late during the second set, only striking for one kill. However, in the third set, Hanley, Licht, Thompson, and Kingi each blasted three kills against the porous Rainbow Warrior defense that could only manage two blocks. Thompson finished with eight kills on the night and continued his efficiency with a .455 clip. Despite their early setback, the Gauchos overpowered Hawai'i to win the set 25-22.
UCSB fell behind early in the fourth set, similar to the third, 11-7. Yet, also similar to the third set, the Gauchos found a spark to fight back in the match. Staahl's solo block invigorated the team to three straight points that was interrupted by a Hawai'i timeout. Undaunted, Licht and Thompson on the very next point teamed up for a critical block to tie the match at 13. After losing a point to Hawai'i, the Gauchos again reeled-off three straight points. The duo of Licht and Thompson would not allow the Rainbow Warrior offense any chance to get rolling as they stuffed two of the three straight points. Thompson assisted in seven total blocks for the match while Licht's three blocks in the set gave him a total of four for the match, not including his solo block. Hawai'i was forced to burn their second timeout of the set. UCSB extended their lead to 20-17 before the Rainbow Warriors rallied to within one point, still down 24-23. Austin Kingi sealed the set, and the match, for the Gauchos with the winning kill. He pounded three kills in the set for a total of 13 in the match. Further, Hanley continued his strong play off the bench with an additional four kills for a match total of eight.
"We came together as a team tonight to get a win we needed," said Rick McLaughlin. "We still have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be, so we'll be ready for them again tomorrow night." UCSB finishes off their double-header against Hawai'i in Rob Gym tomorrow night at 7pm before heading on a two game road trip to USC and to current No. 1 Pepperdine.