No. 8 UCSB Notches Historic Sweep at No. 11 UCLA

Kevin Donohue (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Kevin Donohue (Photo by Tony Mastres)

WESTWOOD, Calif. – Redshirt senior outside hitter Kevin Donohue recorded a team-high 17 kills on 44 swings to pace No. 8 UC Santa Barbara to a road sweep of No. 11 UCLA (25-20, 25-21, 26-24) on Friday night at Pauley Pavillion.

It was the first three-set win on the road this season for UCSB, who improved to 8-5 on the year with a 4-5 mark in MPSF play. UCLA dropped to 6-5, 2-5. Friday night represented the first time the Gauchos have swept the Bruins at Pauley Pavillion in the rally scoring era, and just the second time overall in any venue since the 1988 season.

It was the 10th consecutive match with double-digit kills for Donohue, who entered the night with the best kills per game average in the ultra-competitive MPSF at 3.85. After his exploits against the Bruins, he will see that average climb to 3.98. The 17 kills were a career-high for Donohue in three-game matches and were the most by a Gaucho in a sweep since Matt Hanley had 20 against UC San Diego on Mar. 1, 2014.

Junior All-American setter Jonah Seif had a strong night, finishing one dig short of a double-double and racking up 41 assists in the three sets. The Gauchos out-hit the Bruins .315 to .280 on the night, the seventh time this season that they have hit over .300, a feat they accomplished just 10 times in 2014.

Junior middle blocker Ryan Hardy was an all-around threat on Friday night, picking up eight kills on 12 swings while notching team highs in aces (two) and blocks (three).

Senior outside Weston Nielsen (nine kills, eight digs), sophomore outside Jacob Delson (nine digs), and freshman libero Hayden Boehle (eight digs) all had solid performances as well.

Though UCSB pulled off a pair of 3-0 runs to stay close with UCLA, the Bruins led for the majority of the first game, opening up their biggest lead yet at 18-15. From that point on, UCSB reeled off seven straight points to go into the driver's seat. The run began with a Mitch Stahl service error, then Seif got the Bruins on their heels by ripping an ace and forcing UCLA head coach John Speraw into a timeout. The break didn't slow down UCSB's momentum however, with two kills from Donohue and consecutive Delson-Jake Staahl double-blocks rounding out the spree. The Gauchos claimed the set when J.T. Hatch served into the net.

The second set was easier sledding for the Gauchos, who led or were tied from start to finish. Already leading 9-7, UCSB created all the separation it would need with a 6-3 run – featuring three emphatic Nielsen kills – that pushed the lead to 15-10. UCLA would eventually get as close as 23-21, but a smash from Delson and an attacking error from the Bruins' Christian Hessenauer clinched the game for the Gauchos.

The decisive final game was the closest of all, with an early four-point UCSB lead giving way to a tit-for-tat battle down the stretch. Trailing 19-15, the Bruins stormed back and eventually tied the score at 20-20. UCSB would surrender the lead on the next point for the first time since the first set, with UCLA going on to lead 23-22. Donohue and Delson chipped in kills on consecutive points to reclaim the lead, then after an Eric Sprague putdown, "Donny" smashed two straight kills to complete the sweep.

UCLA was led by Hessenauer and J.T. Hatch, who had a team-high 10 kills apiece. Hatch was one dig away from recording a 10-10 double-double, while Hessenauer had a team-best six blocks.

The Gauchos return to Santa Barbara next week as they welcome on USC and Cal Baptist for a pair of home contest on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Both matches are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. starts.