No. 9 Gauchos Outlast Cal Baptist, Extend Best Start to Season Since 2007

Henri Cherry (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Henri Cherry (Photo by Vince Agapito)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Despite hitting a season-high .423 on Friday night at Van Dyne Gym, ninth-ranked UC Santa Barbara needed five sets but ultimately proved victorious over host Cal Baptist in the last of a season-long four-match road trip. 

Game scores for the match were 25-21, 29-31, 25-14, 22-25, 15-10. 

Four different Gauchos reached the 10-kill mark for UCSB (7-2, 3-1 MPSF), helping the squad maintain its best start to a season since 2007. Junior outside hitter Jacob Delson and junior opposite Matt Marsh co-led the team with 17 kills apiece, followed closely by senior outside Austin Kingi's 12 and freshman middle blocker Henri Cherry's 10. 

Cal Baptist (3-4, 0-4) had a strong showing of their own on their home floor, receiving a match-high 20 kills and five aces from Cody Jackson. The Lancers hit .296 on the night, including a blistering .514 clip in the second game. 

For the second consecutive night, All-American setter Jonah Seif notched a season-high 54 assists, helping all five of the Gauchos' starting attackers to hitting percentages over .300, including a near-flawless .833 mark for Cherri and a .429 clip for Kingi, highest among either teams' outside hitters. 

With 11, junior libero Parker Boehle set a new career-high in digs for the second time in 24 hours. 

Kingi was the driving force for UCSB in the opening set, chipping in four kills on four swings. A pair of those putdowns came during a crucial 6-3 run for the Gauchos that put them up 17-13 after neither team separated itself in the early going. UCSB was able to nurse that four-point lead all the way to the game-ending service error off the palm of CBU's Zachary Melcher. 

At 60 points, the second game between UCSB and CBU was tied for the longest in any MPSF match so far this season. The Gauchos led by as much as five in the frame and held set point at 24-20, but the Lancers were able to rip off four consecutive points to tie the score. The two squads went tit-for-tat down the stretch, but it was CBU who was able to convert on their first game point at 30-29, tying the match on a Jackson-Caleb Miller double block. 

Rocky DeLyon had eight kills on 11 swings for the Lancers in that see-saw game, while Marsh countered for UCSB with nine kills. 

UCSB recovered to hit .476 in the third, cruising to a set three win. Cherry was the star for UCSB in the stanza, picking up a kill on each of his four swings. The Gauchos' dominant serving allowed them to storm out to a 16-6 lead, including a run in which CBU was forced into five consecutive attack errors. 

Like UCSB in the third, Cal Baptist was able to build a big lead early in the fourth set, going up 16-10 thanks in large part to seven kills and a pair of aces from Jackson. The Gauchos bounced back to bring the deficit within two at 24-22, but DeLyon ended UCSB's hopes of a four-set win with a match-tying kill. 

Playing in a fifth set for just the second time this season, the Gauchos wasted no time in going ahead early. Tied at 3-3, Seif and Cherry teamed up for a big double-block before the latter keyed a 3-0 run from the service line that put the Gauchos up 7-3. With neither team winning more than two consecutive points from there on out, UCSB was content to trade serve with CBU until Delson put down the match-winning kill.

The Gauchos hit a match-high .533 in the decisive set while allowing the Lancers to accrue only one point off the serve. 

UCSB returns to Rob Gym next week, hosting Cal State Northridge in their MPSF home opener on Wednesday night before tackling the Long Beach State 49ers on Friday. Both matches are set for 7:00 p.m. starts.