LOS ANGELES – Ninth-ranked UC Santa Barbara won the opening game against No. 4 UCLA on Wednesday night, but ultimately was bested by the Bruins in four games at the Wooden Center, 21-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-18.
Just their second loss in the last seven matches, the Gauchos dropped to 13-7 on the year with a 9-6 mark in conference play. The Bruins moved to 16-3, 12-3 on the campaign.
UCSB was outhit .328 to .126 in the contest and was also outblocked at the net 9.5-6.5.
Junior outside hitter Jacob Delson led UCSB's attackers on Wednesday, posting a match-high 16 kills on .231 hitting. Fellow pin hitters Austin Kingi and Corey Chavers finished with nine and eight kills, respectively. With 37 assists and 11 digs, senior setter Jonah Seif notched his team-leading fifth double-double of the season.
The Bruins were led by Jake Arnitz, who had team bests in kills (13), digs (10), and blocks (four) . JT Hatch and Micah Ma'a both finished with a dozen kills.
The Gauchos were at their best in the first game, holding UCLA to a match-low .125 team hitting percentage. The teams went back and forth early, but UCSB pulled away with a 3-0 run at 15-15 to force a Bruins timeout. The Gauchos worked hard to maintain the lead, and then pulled away with a 5-1 stretch to make it 24-19. Key plays in that run included a Kingi-Henri Cherry block and an errant attack from UCLA's Hagen Smith.
The Bruins made it interesting by winning back-to-back points to make it 24-21, but after a timeout UCSB was able to claim the set on the ensuing play when Michael Fisher was called for a net violation.
UCLA was able to turn it around from there on, hitting .405 the rest of the way.
Trailing by as much as four, the Gauchos were able to tie the second game late at 21-21. However, the Bruins recovered to win four of the final five points of the frame, tying the match on a Ma'a kill.
UCLA rode that momentum into the final two games, not allowing UCSB to hold a lead at any point.
The Bruins and Gauchos are scheduled to do battle again on Friday night at Rob Gym in the second leg of their home-and-home series this week. First serve is set for 7:00 p.m. That contest will be UCSB's last MPSF match until Mar. 23.