No. 9 Gauchos Drop Four-Set Decision to Lewis in Season Opener

Matt Marsh (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Matt Marsh (Photo by Tony Mastres)

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. – The No. 9 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team fell in four games (25-23, 25-23, 23-25, 25-22) to No. 8 Lewis at Neil Carey Arena in the first game of the regular season for both squads on Saturday afternoon.

The Gauchos had a solid performance on the offensive end, hitting .254 as a team and receiving double-digit kill outputs from three separate hitters, but the Flyers – the runners-up for the 2015 National Championship – were even more efficient, posting a .343 attacking percentage. 

Freshman outside hitter Julian Moses was the X-Factor for Lewis, posting a match-high 21 kills alongside a .471 hitting percentage, eight digs, and six blocks. 

Junior outside Jacob Delson ended up pacing all Gauchos with 14 kills, but he was followed closely by junior opposite Matt Marsh (13 kills) and freshman outside Corey Chavers (12 kills in his NCAA debut). Two-time All-American setter Jonah Seif started off his senior campaign in a positive way, notching 43 assists, four service aces, and three kills on three attempts. 

The home squad got the jump on the match, winning the first two points and building a five-point lead as early as 12-7. Buoyed by Marsh's six kills in the frame, the Gauchos kept within striking distance until reeling off five consecutive points late to tie the game at 20-20. Sophomore right side hitter Bobby Curtis was a driving force in the run, with strong serving leading to three unforced attacking errors from the Flyers. At 20-all, a triple block of a Chavers attack started a 3-0 run for Lewis, which clinched the set on a Jacob Schmiegelt quick hit. 

Despite being outhit by more than 100 points, the Gauchos kept extremely close to the Flyers in set number two, forcing 13 ties and four lead changes. At 23-23, Lewis received decisive and consecutive kills from Patrick Lilly and Michael Simmons to go up 2-0 in the match. 

UCSB really got their offense rolling beginning in the third set, as the team hit over .300 in each of the final two games. 

Delson was the Gauchos' offensive leader in set three, posting four kills while Seif added two off the dump with a pair of aces. From the service line, that duo helped UCSB create enough cushion to win their sole game of the match by leading a 6-2 run early on that made the score 15-11. A Delson-Connor Drake (six kills, five blocks in his NCAA debut) double block gave the Gauchos their biggest lead of the game at 19-14, with a Delson kill staving off late Lewis momentum to win the game. 

In the decisive fourth, Lewis went up for good on a Bobby Walsh kill that made it 5-4. The Flyers maintained a small lead throughout, ending the match on a Marsh service error. 

The Gauchos will be right back in action tomorrow afternoon, taking on Loyola-Chicago, the two-time defending national champion, at 1:00 p.m. PST. UCSB will return to Santa Barbara next weekend to host the 2016 UCSB Asics Invitational on Jan. 8 & 9.