SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The No. 9 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team won both of its contests on the first day of the 2016 UCSB Asics Invitational, outlasting MIVA-member Quincy in five sets before sweeping EIVA-member NJIT in the nightcap.
The victories improved the Gauchos' record to 3-1 on the season. UCSB has now won eight straight Asics Invitational matches dating back to 2013. In addition, head coach Rick McLaughlin moved within one victory of earning his 100th win as head coach of the Gauchos.
"We played well in spots during the morning match," said McLaughlin. "Gave up a few big runs of points, but managed to get the win still. Our focus in the second match was on consistency. We tried not to give our opponent any free points. I thought we definitely improved on that, but we still have much work to do. Hopefully tomorrow we keep improving. We have some young guys out there learning as they go, and we will have to fight through some rough patches early in the season for sure. But if we stay positive, keep learning, and compete hard, we will be in a good spot mid season."
Senior setter Jonah Seif led the Gauchos to a .317 overall hitting percentage on Friday with 80 assists in eight sets. Jacob Delson and Matt Marsh had dominant performances in the first and second matches, respectively, leading the Gauchos in kills by a large margin.
UCSB will finish up the tournament with a contest against Sacred Heart tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. in Rob Gym.
Match One Recap
Jacob Delson put down 16 kills and chipped in four crucial points in the decisive fifth set to rescue a 3-2 win for UCSB over Quincy in the opener of the Asics Invitational, 25-20, 25-17, 21-25, 23-25, 15-10.
With McLaughlin spreading out playing time, the four starters who played all five sets each racked up impressive statlines. Freshmen middle blockers Henri Cherry (11 kills, .588 hitting percentage) and Connor Drake (eight kills, .538) both had impressive nights on the attack, while All-American setter Jonah Seif continued his strong start to the season with a 48 assist outing.
The Gauchos stormed out to a 2-0 lead in the match, hitting a whopping .500 in the first game while holding the Hawks to a lowly .209 clip in the first two sets.
All five hitters on the Gauchos recorded multiple kills in the first game, led by middle blocker Connor Drake's perfect 3-3 line. Trailing by a point at 3-2, consecutive kills from Spencer Buckley sparked an 11-5 run for UCSB that put the squad up 13-8. The Gauchos maintained that margin until late in the set, when Quincy got within two at 21-19, but the Gauchos bounced back to win four of the final five points.
Delson keyed the Gauchos to a game two win as well with four kills, while the Gauchos held the Hawks to a paltry .150 attacking percentage with just one hitter recording more than one kill.
Things began to turn around for Quincy in the third after head coach Hadley Foster inserted right side hitter Chris Chapelle into the lineup. The 6-2 lefty notched five kills in the third game on nine swings to spark his squad's turnaround.
Also pivotal for the Hawks was libero Simon Bruckner, who tallied 11 digs in sets three and four alone after playing sparingly in the opening two games.
Behind Ian Lawson's six kills and a match-high .429 team hitting percentage, Quincy had their best performance in set number four. Facing game point at 24-19, UCSB made it interesting by reeling off four consecutive points, including two Delson kills, but Jarrod Kelso clinched the tying set with a quick hit off the block.
Despite the trajectory of the match, UCSB outright dominated the fifth set, jumping out to a 10-3 lead early behind the serving of Delson. Going to the line ahead 5-3, Delson sparked a 5-0 run that included a pair of aces. The Gauchos shook off a trio of late Chapelle kills to maintain a steady lead, winning the match on a Quincy serve into the net.
Match Two Recap
UCSB finished up Friday with a tidy, 3-0 sweep of NJIT at Rob Gym, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17.
As a team, the Gauchos hit a whopping .408, a high for the team in the still-young season. However, they reached that figure just three times last season. Conversely, the Highlanders hit a lowly .125 for the match.
UCSB opposite Matt Marsh absolutely dominated NJIT from the right side, posting 16 kills on just 22 swings for a .588 hitting percentage.
Marsh was also part of a quartet of Gauchos who each posted two aces on the night, joining Seif, Delson, and Cherry.
Delson was next on the Gauchos with eight kills, while Drake, Cherry, and Corey Chavers had five apiece.
Getting off on the right foot, Delson and Seif teamed up to put the Gauchos up 7-3 after their first turns at the service line, with each chipping in an ace. UCSB never strung together an overwhelming run in the set, but they were consistently able to side out – NJIT only got one point off the serve the entire game – to keep the visitors at a comfortable distance.
NJIT responded to start the second game, going up 13-9 and inducing an early timeout from McLaughlin. After the break, a Delson kill set up Cherry to go off at the service line, with the freshman notching two aces and forcing three NJIT attack errors as part of a 7-0 run that put UCSB up for good.
Matt Marsh was the author of the signature run for UCSB in the decisive third, recording back-to-back aces to tie the game at 8-8 and then put the Gauchos up by a point, a lead which they did not relinquish. Marsh later contributed three kills as part of a 10-4 run that put the game and match out of reach at 23-16. The Gauchos clinched the match on NJIT's 17th attack error of the evening.