IRVINE, Calif. – Senior outside hitter Jacob Delson had 34 kills in Saturday night's MPSF contest at No. 7 UC Irvine, the most by a Gaucho hitter since Jeff Menzel on Feb. 12, 2010, but it proved to be not enough as No. 13 UC Santa Barbara dropped an extremely close five-set decision to the host Anteaters; 25-23, 25-27, 18-25, 28-26, 18-16.
Three of five sets at the Bren Center required extra points, and all but one were decided by just two points.
Besides Delson's historic effort, UCSB (7-9, 4-9 MPSF) received standout efforts from middle blockers Keenan Sanders (14 kills on .632 hitting) and Connor Drake (match-high eight blocks), while sophomore opposite Corey Chavers had a pair of aces and eight kills.
Senior libero Parker Boehle was also on his game in the back row, posting 12 digs for his third double-digit dig performance of the month.
UCSB hit a solid .313 for the match, but was edged out by UCI's (11-5, 8-4) .388 clip. Four different Anteaters posted 10 or more kills on Saturday, led by Tamir Hershko's 19.
Hershko was the X-factor for UCI in the decisive fifth set, posting seven vital kills and leading a late comeback for the hosts.
After four tight sets, UCSB maintained a modest advantage through most of the fifth, resulting in a 14-12 lead and two match points. However, Hershko notched a key kill and then went to the service line and set up another two points for his team, smashing down a kill to take the lead at 15-14.
A Hershko service error knotted the score again, and the team's traded points to bring it to 16-16. At that point, Hershko ripped back-to-back kills to seal the game and the match for UCI.
UCSB played its best volleyball in the second and third sets, winning each to erase a one-game deficit and take the lead 2-1.
It was Delson and Sanders who led UCSB in the second, with the former grabbing eight kills and the latter six. Delson was especially key down the stretch, notching back-to-back kills on UCI set points to even the score at 24-24. Sanders then put his stamp on the action with a block (assisted by setter Randy DeWeese), later adding a quick hit to set up game point for the Gauchos. With Sanders serving, Delson and Drake came up with a huge block on a Scott Stadick swing, tying it at one set apiece.
The Gauchos dominated in set number three, winning by seven points, by far the largest margin of the night. An early 8-3 run gave the Gauchos all the cushion they would need for the set, as they hit a solid .345 for the frame.
UCSB once again had a chance to win it in a tightly-contested fourth game, with one of Hayden Boehle's four kills on the night setting up match point at 26-25, but the Anteaters stormed back with three straight points to send it to the fifth.
The Gauchos next week travel to Happy Valley for non-conference matches against Penn State on Friday and Lees-McRae on Saturday, both at PSU's Rec Hall. This will be UCSB's first contest against the Nittany Lions since the National Championship title match in 2011.