No. 12 UCSB Falls in Five Set Heartbreaker to No. 8 Stanford

Jacob Delson (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Jacob Delson (photo by Eric Isaacs)

PALO ALTO, Calif. – No. 12 UC Santa Barbara won a marathon second set and came within two points of a straght-set sweep of No. 8 Stanford in Saturday night's contest at the Maples Pavillion, but the Gauchos couldn't stop a furious comeback as the hosts came back to take the match in a five-set thriller; 23-25, 41-43, 26-24, 25-15, 15-10. 

Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Ewert had 26 kills overall to lead the comeback for the Cardinal (8-4, 5-2 MPSF), which hit .333 down the stretch behind Paul Bischoff's (55 assists) setting. 

Redshirt senior Jacob Delson had a 19 kill-11 dig double-double to lead the Gauchos (6-7, 3-7), who are now in the midst of a six-match losing streak. 

Elsewhere, sophomore middle Blocker Connor Drake had a career-high 12 kills as well as a team-leading seven blocks, and fellow middle Henri Cherry added nine kills on 12 swings while chipping in six blocks. 

Each of the first three sets on Saturday were extremely tight, with UCSB emerging victorious in the first two. Stanford pulled out the third with a late rally, then parlayed that momentum into sizable wins in the final two frames.

Particularly contentious was the second set which lasted a total of 84 points, the longest in any MPSF match this season and the longest for UCSB in the Rick McLaughlin era (since 2008). The Gauchos had the majority of control in the set, leading by as many as four until the Cardinal came back to tie it late with a 5-1 run that made it 21-all.

Both teams had their chances to win it in extra points, with the Gauchos enjoying seven game points to Stanford's 11. Ultimately, it was strong serving from Cherry and the UCSB block that proved decisive, as a Randy Deweese-Drake double block set up game point before Delson came through with a huge solo block of a Ryan Smith swing to put the Gauchos ahead 2-0.

Extra points didn't prove as fortuitous for UCSB in the third, as a late Gaucho comeback came up short thanks to two quick points for Stanford off a 24-24 tie. Senior outside hitter Gabriel Vega (16 kills, six digs, four blocks) came up big first for the home squad with a clutch kill that made it game point, then middle blocker Stephen Moye recorded the most important of his match-high eight blocks with a solo stuff on a quick hit from Drake to make it 2-1. 

It was all Stanford in the final two games, as the home squad outhit UCSB .283 to -.148. 

The Gauchos return to Rob Gym, where they are 6-2 this season, for a pair of contests next week, first hosting Long Beach State on Wednesday night before welcoming CSUN on Friday night. Both matches are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. starts.