No. 9 UC Santa Barbara Tops USC in Four Sets

Matt Marsh (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Matt Marsh (Photo by Vince Agapito)

LOS ANGELES – Behind junior opposite Matt Marsh's 19 kills and three aces, No. 8 UC Santa Barbara equaled their best start to a season since 2007 with a 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23) win over No. 15 USC on Thursday night at the Galen Center. 

After the victory, the Gauchos sit at 6-2 overall on the season with a 2-1 mark in conference play. The struggling Trojans dropped to 0-5, 0-3.

UCSB, winners of six of its last seven, hit .333 for the match, and now has hit over .250 in all but one contest this season. USC hit a solid .310, receiving 16 kills apiece from Lucas Yoder and Alex Slaught. 

Marsh was one of just several players to have a strong night for a UCSB squad that had five hitters with at least nine kills.

Chief among them was senior middle blocker Ryan Hardy, who had 10 kills on 16 swings for the seventh double-digit kill performance of his career. With a season-high 54 assists and 10 digs, senior setter Jonah Seif had his second straight double-double. 

Rounding out the offense were outside hitters Austin Kingi (10 kills), Jacob Delson, and middle blocker Connor Drake (nine apiece). 

Junior libero Parker Boehle recorded a career-high 10 digs. 

Tied at 17-all in the first set, UCSB used a 5-2 run late to create a big enough cushion for the win. Freshman outside hitter Corey Chavers picked a fine time to get hot, chipping in two of his three kills on the night during the run. Marsh clinched it with one of his five game-one kills. 

The Gauchos hit a match-low .094 in the second game, while Slaught steered the Trojans to their only set win with a team-best four kills. 

UCSB recovered in the third set via a 3-0 run with the score tied 18-18, going ahead by three on a Kingi-Marsh-Hardy triple block. The Gauchos and Trojans traded serve for the rest of the game, with UCSB claiming the set on a Slaught attacking error. 

Marsh and Hardy had four kills apiece to lead the Gauchos in an extremely tight game four. Tied at 21-21, a Hardy kill sent Marsh to the service line, with the Trabuco Canyon, Calif. native ripping an ace to go up 23-21. The teams were able to side out on each point after that, with UCSB sealing the win on a Seif dump. 

The Gauchos wrap up a season-long four game road trip tomorrow night at unranked Cal Baptist. First serve is set for 7:00 p.m.