SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Despite a historic debut from redshirt freshman middle blocker Jack Truman, the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team dropped a four-set decision on Friday night to St. Francis in the UCSB Asics Invitational at Rob Gym, giving the visitors two upsets over west coast opponents in the space of 12 hours. Set scores were 25-23, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23.
With the loss, the Gauchos dropped to 1-1 on the young season. They had previously opened the new campaign with a solid 3-1 victory over NJIT on Thursday evening. SFU meanwhile improved to 2-1 after knocking off No. 8 Stanford earlier on Friday.
In his collegiate debut, Truman knocked down 15 kills on just 21 swings for a .524 hitting percentage. Those 15 kills are the most by any UCSB middle in his debut in the rally scoring era (since 2001) and rank in the upper echelon of single-match kills for any Gaucho middle in the rally era. The 6-10 middle added a pair of block assists to finish with 15 points on the night.
Other productive Gauchos included junior outside hitter Corey Chavers (co-match-high 16 kills, two block assists), sophomore outside Roy McFarland (12 kills on .308 hitting), junior middle Connor Drake (four blocks, six kills), and Spencer Fredrick (eight kills, team-high 10 digs). Sophomore setter Casey McGarry quarterbacked the offense to a .302 hitting percentage – UCSB hit over .300 eight times in 2017 – and recorded 50 assists, his fourth time hitting that mark in his career.
SFU's three pins each had between 14 to 16 kills, led by opposite Brandon Buck's 16. With eight total blocks, including four solo efforts, middle Keith Kegerreis helped the Red Flash outblock UCSB 12-9.
Truman announced his presence with authority in the first set, slamming down a team-high six kills. However, SFU's Stephen Braswell answered back with six of his own and ultimately the visitors narrowly pulled out the frame.
UCSB answered back with its best set of the night in the second, with Chavers (seven kills on 15 swings) pacing an offense that hit .469 for the set. Truman (4-0-4) and Fredrick (4-0-5) were also at their most efficient in the second. Chavers was the man behind UCSB's decisive run, collecting three straight kills – including back-to-back tapdowns of overpasses forced by McFarland jump serves – to turn a 17-18 deficit into a two-point advantage.
SFU's front row produced six blocks in the third set to stymie the Gaucho offense and reestablish the lead. Kegerreis and middle-mate Hayden Herc each had three total blocks in the frame. McFarland had his most productive set of the night for UCSB in the third, notching five kills on 10 swings.
The fourth and final set was a slugfest, with SFU hitting .400 to the Gauchos' also-solid .333. UCSB trailed by as many as six late at 20-14, but clawed back to make it close down the stretch. A Drake-McGarry double-block brought the Gauchos within two at 22-20, and then a UCSB triple block shaved the deficit to one at 23-22. Unfortunately, SFU was able to hold the Gauchos off just long enough to convert on their second match point with a UCSB service error.
The Gauchos wrap up play in the UCSB Asics Invitational tomorrow with a 5:00 p.m. contest against Stanford.