IRVINE, Calif. – No. 8 UC Santa Barbara's rally scoring era record of 14 consecutive sets won came to end on Saturday night at the Bren Center, as third-ranked UC Irvine pulled off a sweep of the Gauchos to continue their own impressive win streak.
Set scores for the match went 25-21, 31-29, 25-18. UCSB, previously winners of five consecutive matches, dropped to 11-6 overall with a 7-6 mark in MPSF conference play. The streaking Anteaters, winners of seven straight, improved to 16-3, 8-3.
The Gauchos were led offensively by senior Kevin Donohue on Saturday night, as the outside hitter collected a match-high 15 kills. Ryan Hardy added six kills on 10 swings, but as a whole, UCSB struggled on the attack, finishing with a .173 hitting percentage, the second lowest attacking clip for the team this season.
Conversely, UCI had two players finish with double-digit kills in Tamir Herhko (12) and Kyle Russell (11). The Anteaters hit .433 as a team, the highest attacking percentage recorded by a UCSB opponent this season. They also had a decided advantage at the net, outblocking the Gauchos 14-5.
Neither team distinguished itself in the first set until, at 9-9, UC Irvine pulled off an 8-4 run to open a four-point lead at 18-14. From that point, a Hershko service error was followed by a kill from Zack La Cavera and an Anteaters double block, stretching their lead to 20-15 and necessitating a UCSB timeout. That break did little to stem UCI's momentum though, as Michael Brinkley clinched the set with a kill a few points later.
The middle game was the longest that UCSB has played this year, with UCI needing 31 points to pull it out. UCSB had a chance to even the match, as the team was ahead 24-21, but from there, a UCI block, a UCI kill, and UCSB attacking error tied it at 24-24. Another Anteater kill gave the home squad a chance for set point, but a Jonah Seif dump – one of his three kills on the night – evened it at 25-all. Eventually, back-to-back kills from Hershko and Russell claimed the set.
That late game momentum rolled over into the third, as UCI jumped out to a 6-2 lead, holding that margin until they were up 14-9. Soon thereafter, a UCSB attacking error followed by consecutive UCI blocks made it 17-10, and the Anteaters were content to trade sideouts from there, with a Gaucho service error ending the match.
The Gauchos will return to Rob Gym – where they are 8-2 in 2015 – next week to host Long Beach State on Wednesday and Cal State Northridge on Friday. Both matches are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. starts.