CHICAGO – The season debut of freshman All-American Keenan Sanders and 18 kills from reigning Big West Player of the Week Corey Chavers proved to be not enough for the No. 15 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team on Thursday night at Gentile Arena, as host Loyola University Chicago, ranked No. 7 in the country, emerged victorious 3-1 with set scores of 25-23, 25-23, 18-25, 25-17.
Chavers, who became one of just four Gauchos in the last 10 years to record 24 kills in last Saturday's upset of No. 10 Pepperdine, paced the Gaucho offense with his 18 kills. UCSB's (3-2) offense ran through the middle more often than usual, with Sanders and Brandon Hopper putting down nine kills apiece. The latter had the most efficient night offensively, recording just one error on 20 swings for a .400 hitting percentage.
In the back row, sophomore libero Grady Yould set a new season-high for the second straight game with 15 digs. He was equaled by the Ramblers' Avery Aylsworth, who also had 15 scoops.
LUC (5-2) had a balanced attack featuring three separate players (Collin Mahan, Jeff Jendryk, and Ricky Gevis) who finished with exactly 10 kills apiece. The home side out-hit UCSB .220 to .154.
Despite missing the first four matches of the season due to injury, Sanders was no worse for wear in the first set as he recorded four kills on five swings to help UCSB to a 23-20 lead. Unfortunately, the Gauchos saw that lead slip away as the Ramblers pulled off five consecutive points to steal the set, with a triple block capping off the rally.
The second set was the closest of the evening, as there were 16 ties and no team was able to open up a lead larger than two points at any time during the game. A service ace by Gevis gave LUC a momentous lead at 23-21, as that play was followed by three consecutive serve errors that set up game point for the home team, allowing Jendryk to put a kill away and go up 2-0.
UCSB responded with its best set in the third, hitting a match-high .265 (compared to .086 for Loyola). A dominant set by Chavers, including eight kills and an ace, was the biggest variable for the Gauchos. UCSB closed off the set with an 8-1 run off a 17-17 tie, with Chavers chipping in three kills during the spree, with sophomore setter Randy DeWeese chipping in another point off an ace and Brandon Hopper contributing a kill, one of his four of the frame.
Loyola got right back to business in the fourth, using a 8-2 mid-set run to take control and finish off the match.
UCSB looks to bounce back on Saturday afternoon at No. 10 Lewis. First serve is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. PT.