No. 5 Gauchos Pull Off Sweep at Cal Baptist

Weston Nielsen (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Weston Nielsen (Photo by Tony Mastres)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen and senior opposite Evan Licht had a dozen kills apiece Wednesday night in a three-game sweep on the road at Cal Baptist, reducing No. 5 UC Santa Barbara's magic number to clinch a playoff spot to three.

Game scores for the match were 25-19, 25-16, 25-21.

With the win, UCSB improved to 14-6 and 13-6 in conference play, moving a half-game in front of idle Long Beach State for third place in the MPSF standings. UCSB has now won five of its last six matches.

Cal Baptist dropped to 4-19, 2-17.

Besides Nielsen and Licht's match-high 12 kills, senior outside hitter Matt Hanley had eight kills as well to balance the UCSB attack.

Senior libero Chad Kingi, fresh off a career-high 19 dig performance against Pepperdine, anchored the Gauchos defense with 10 digs, the only player on either side to reach double-digits.

Junior middle blocker Jake Staahl dominated the Lancers at the net, accruing a match-high eight blocks. Sophomore setter Jonah Seif chipped in at the net with four blocks of his own to go along with a match-best 36 assists.

Tied at 7-7 in the first set, UCSB stormed ahead by claiming seven straight points, highlighted by back-to-back blocks from Staahl, to go ahead and take a commanding 14-7 lead. The two teams more or less traded points from there on before the Gauchos clinched the set on a Hanley spike.

From the service line, Nielsen led the Gauchos to an early 7-2 lead in set number two, picking up one of the team's four service aces on the night. Cal Baptist fought back to make it as close as 16-14, but a 6-0 run featuring a pair of Licht kills and a Nielsen-Ryan Thompson double block put the score out of reach at 22-14.

The third set was the tighest of all, with neither team opening up a lead of more than three at any point. With the Gauchos up 16-13, the teams went tit-for-tat over the next 16 points to make it 24-21, before UCSB broke through for a point off the serve when Cal Baptist's Rocky DeLyon made an errant attack.

The Gauchos continue their postseason push this Friday, when they travel for a nationally televised match at BYU this Friday at 6:00 p.m. PDT.