NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – Junior outside hitter Jacob Delson had 13 kills for the second consecutive match and freshman middle blocker Henri Cherry added 10 kills on just 12 swings as No. 7 UC Santa Barbara moved to the precipice of clinching a playoff spot after sweeping No. 11 Cal State Northridge on Saturday night at the Matadome 25-20, 25-18, 25-15.
Improving to 15-9 overall on the year and 10-8 in MPSF play, the Gauchos can clinch their fourth consecutive playoff berth with a UC Irvine loss at Hawaii later tonight. That match is set for a 10:00 p.m. PDT start time.
CSUN, one of the four teams vying for the eighth and final place in the MPSF tournament, dropped to 13-12, 6-12.
On their home floor and looking to solidify their chances for a tourney berth, it was the Matadors who came out hot to start the match, jumping out to a 9-4 lead with a Dimitar Kalchev solo block providing the exclamation point on their early run.
Trailing 7-11 in the opener, UCSB stoked a dominant 9-2 run to grab the lead and wrest momentum away. That streak, featuring kills from four different Gaucho hitters and a service ace from senior setter Jonah Seif, set the tone for the rest of the match. Back to back blocks from Ryan Hardy and Hayden Boehle later in the set helped UCSB push its cushion to five points, and the Gauchos eventually went up 1-0 on a game-clinching Delson kill.
In the driver's seat from there on out, the Gauchos went on to build big advantages early in the final two sets and had the luxury of protecting the lead instead of chasing it. The steady quarterbacking of Seif, who had 36 assists while leading the team to a steady .405 hitting percentage, helped the Gauchos execute consistently.
Other key contributors for UCSB included junior opposite Matt Marsh, who had seven kills and a match-high four aces, and Boehle, who had a team-high six digs alongside five kills on eight swings.
While the Gauchos may be playoff-bound by the end of the night, they can assure their fate next weekend as they host Hawaii for contests on Friday and Saturday night. Both matches are set for 7:00 p.m. starts. UCSB has four regular season contests remaining.