UCSB Falls Short in MPSF Showdown at UC Irvine

Evan Licht (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Evan Licht (Photo by Tony Mastres)

Irvine, Calif. – Sophomore setter Jonah Seif recorded his third double-double of the season and senior opposite Evan Licht put down a team-best 16 kills, but No. 9 UC Irvine had four hitters record double-digit kills in a four-game win over sixth-ranked UC Santa Barbara on Friday at the Bren Center.

UCSB dropped to 9-5 overall and 8-5 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play following the loss, its ninth straight against the Anteaters. UCI moved to 11-8, 8-7.

For Licht, it was the eighth time this season reaching double-digit kill figures. Junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen added a dozen kills on the night to ease the load off Licht, but UCSB's other outsides combined for just nine kills.

Seif dished out 42 assists in the loss and scooped a dozen digs, tying a season and career high.

Middle blocker Ryan Hardy held it down in the middle for UCSB, finishing with a team-high six blocks while adding four kills on six attacks. Senior libero Chad Kingi finished just one off his season-best with 13 digs from the back row.

Entering the match with the top defense in the conference, UCSB was hard-pressed to contain the Anteaters offense, which finished with a .326 hitting percentage. Four of their attackers had 10 or more kills, including Connor Hughes (15), Scott Kevorken (14), Jeremy Dejno (13), and Collin Mehring (10).

That quartet staked UC Irvine to a 2-0 set lead on their home court. UCSB lost the second game despite hitting a robust .417. The Gauchos were able to claim a tight third set behind strong performances from Licht and Nielsen. With the score tied at 24-all, both members of the duo recorded a kill to clinch the set and keep the Gauchos' chances alive.

UCSB will look to rebound tomorrow night at UC San Diego. The Tritons are coming off their first win of the season (Friday night against Grand Canyon) but remain winless in conference play. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. from the RIMAC Arena.