Gauchos Breeze Past No. 13 CSUN in Wednesday Sweep

Matt Hanley (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Matt Hanley (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Seventh-ranked UC Santa Barbara continued its dominant play at home on Wednesday night, making quick work of visiting No. 13 Cal State Northridge in a 3-0 sweep (25-18, 25-19, 25-16) at Rob Gym.

The Gauchos improved to 7-3 overall and 6-1 on their home court. The team is off to their best start to a home schedule since 2001, when they started the year 5-1 in home contests. They currently maintain a 6-3 MPSF record. The struggling Matadors slipped to 3-7, 2-6.

UCSB controlled the match from start to end, hitting a collective .298 to CSUN's .068. The Matadors were held to a .000 clip or lower in two of three sets.

Outside hitters Matt Hanley and Austin Kingi were the go-to offensive options for the Gauchos on Wednesday. Kingi led all players with 12 kills on an extremely efficient .474 hitting percentage – a new career high – while Hanley finished with 11 kills, taking over the match after entering early in the second frame.

Senior libero Chad Kingi was a big part of the UCSB's defensive success, matching a season high with 13 digs despite playing just three sets and being on the sideline often as UCSB controlled the serve the majority of the night.

Falling behind 5-2 at the start of the first set, junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen keyed the Gauchos to five consecutive points from the service line, putting the team up for good at 7-5. He would contribute five kills in the game to lead all players. Reigning MPSF Player of the Week Jonah Seif had his best statistical game of the match in the first, recording 11 of his 29 assists.

The middle frame was all about Matt Hanley. The senior outside dominated the Matadors to a tune of 10 kills – the most in a single set by a Gaucho this season – on 15 swings. The Malibu, Calif. native saved his best for when the Gauchos really needed him, as eight of his kills – including a smash of a CSUN over pass to clinch the set – came in the second half of the frame as CSUN had made the score relatively close at 10-9.

UCSB's serving and blocking came to the fore early in the third, delivering an early lead of 4-0. Ryan Hardy recorded blocks on each of the first two points, then Hardy and Evan Licht dealt the first two aces of the night for the Gauchos to push the score to 7-3. UCSB coasted from there before Hanley authored a 5-0 run with the serve to give his team an insurmountable 21-14 lead.

Hardy ended up leading the UCSB blocking corps on Wednesday night with five total blocks, including one solo effort. Junior middle Jake Staal had three on the night, while Seif and Licht both recorded a pair.

CSUN was led by setter Travis Magorien, who had a double-double with 21 assists and 10 digs. Bradley Sakaida, Sam Holt, and Greg Faulkner each had seven kills to pace the squad.

The Gauchos will look to continue their strong play this Friday night, when they host sixth-ranked Long Beach State at 7:00 p.m.