Gauchos Fall in Three at No. 5 Hawai'i

Connor Drake (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Connor Drake (photo by Eric Isaacs)

HONOLULU – No. 11 UC Santa Barbara started off a four-match road trip on a less than desirable note, falling in three sets at No. 5 Hawaii, 25-22, 30-28, 25-23.

Sophomore opposite Stijn Van Tilburg led the Rainbow Warriors (9-2, 2-2 MPSF) with a match-high 15 kills, while setter Jennings Franciskovic had 32 assists and directed the team to a .301 hitting percentage. 

Senior outside hitter Jacob Delson (14 kills) and sophomore opposite Corey Chavers (10 kills on 22 swings) did the heavy lifting for the UCSB (6-4, 3-4) offense, while sophomore middle blocker Connor Drake (five kills on seven swings, team-high six blocks) also had a strong night. 

The two teams see-sawed back and forth with lengthy service runs in the first set, and UCSB was the first to pull ahead with a 4-0 run behind Keenan Sanders' serving that made it 4-2. The Rainbow Warriors would battle back to tie it at 13 apiece on a double block from Hendrik Mol and Franciskovic. Things stayed tight from there until 18-18, when UH reeled off three straight points before UCSB responded with a 4-1 run to make it 22-all. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, Hawaii would win three straight points to close out the set, including solo blocks on the final two. 

Like in the first, things went down to the wire in a dramatic second game. Neither team was able to take a commanding lead, resulting in a 22-22 tie late. The Rainbow Warriors looked to have it wrapped up with two quick points that set up game point, but UCSB fought back to make it 24-24 and force extra points. The Gauchos went on to fend off another four game points from UH, but ultimately Van Tilburg broke through with consecutive kills to end it at 30-28. 

The middle set was the second time this season a UCSB set required 30 points. 

The Gauchos put up another tough fight in the final set, shaking off a pair of match points at 24-21 to force a timeout from the home team. However, UH went on to clinch the match after the break off a UCSB serving error. 

UCSB and Hawai'i will play another match at the Sheriff Center on Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. PT. The Gauchos wrap up their road trip next week with contests at Pepperdine and Stanford.