SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Playing its first match at Rob Gym in three weeks, No. 15 UC Santa Barbara swept No. 11 CSUN on Wednesday night for a huge win to move up in the crowded MPSF standings; 25-20, 25-22, 25-21.
With the victory, the Gauchos (9-10, 5-9 MPSF) moved within a half-game of CSUN for eighth place in the MPSF standings. The top eight teams in the league make the annual conference tournament, with the winner advancing to the six-team NCAA Tournament.
UCSB would have had an extremely tough path to a postseason berth had they lost, trailing the Matadors (12-8, 5-8 MPSF) by 2.5 games in the standings with just four contests remaining in MPSF action.
"That was our best win of the season so far, without a doubt," said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. "That is a really good team over there. They were off tonight, and maybe we had something to do with that, but we'll take it."
The Gauchos were led on Wednesday by Jacob Delson. Though limited by an ankle injury, Delson had one of his most efficient performances of the year, recording a team-high 13 kills on .450 hitting.
The Westlake Village native was one of several UCSB players to convert to a float serve against the Matadors, and that gambit paid off as CSUN struggled with its passing and thus was rarely able to get into system. The Matadors ended the night with a subpar .162 hitting percentage, compared to UCSB's .341 clip.
"That was definitely part of the game plan," said McLaughlin. "They have a couple of guys who prefer to pass the jump spin, so we decided to ground a few guys and go after them with the jump float and it helped."
Delson had five kills on as many swings in the second half of the opening set to lead a comeback for UCSB, which trailed 9-7 early. A timeout from McLaughlin turned things around, as the Gauchos responded with a 9-4 run to go up 19-14. Delson went on to end the set with a perfectly placed tip that found a gap in the middle of the court.
The middle frame was the tighest of the night, with eight ties and three lead changes. It was tied as late as 19-19, but Connor Drake (4-2-8, team-high six blocks) put UCSB up for good with a quick hit. Tough serving from Randy DeWeese (35 assists, two solo blocks, five total blocks) and Delson led CSUN to commit key errors down the stretch, allowing UCSB to reel off three straight points before Corey Chavers (nine kills) ended it with a slam-down spike from the right side.
Another late run made the difference for UCSB in the third, with back-to-back blocks from Drake (with assists from DeWeese then Chavers) kicking off a 4-0 run for the Gauchos that extended their lead from 19-18 to 23-18. CSUN made it interesting with a 3-1 run on two quick hits from middle Josiah Byers and a Jakub Ciesla ace, but Delson ended the dramatics with a tip through the block to cap the match.
The Gauchos now take a break from conference play, hosting No. 5 Lewis on Saturday night before welcoming Harvard and Concordia Irvine to Rob Gym on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.
Wednesday's match was originally scheduled for Feb. 17, but had to be rescheduled due to severe weather causing a closure on the 101-North freeway.