Gauchos Edged by Pepperdine in Tight Five-Setter

Corey Chavers (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Corey Chavers (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team held an 11-9 lead in the decisive fifth set of Wednesday night's contest at Rob Gym, but ultimately couldn't hold off No. 10 Pepperdine in a 3-2 loss. Set scores were 25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 22-25, 15-12.

The entire contest had a see-saw feel to it, with the teams trading leads and runs in each of the five sets. It was the first match in two weeks for No. 13 UCSB, which dropped to 4-5 on the season with the loss. The Waves, who were defeated 3-1 by the Gauchos in Malibu earlier this season, improved to 8-3.

UCSB was led by a pair of standout performances from its pins, with junior outside hitter Corey Chavers leading all players with 22 kills on .356 hitting while sophomore opposite Keenan Sanders had 18 kills – more than any Pepperdine player – with a .233 hitting percentage. 

Defensively, freshman middle blocker Jack Truman and sophomore setter Randy DeWeese co-led all player with six blocks apiece, while DeWeese flirted with a triple-double (45 assists, eight digs). In the back row, sophomore libero Grady Yould equaled his 2018-best with 15 digs – still the most single-match digs recorded by a Big West player this year – while sophomore outside Roy McFarland set a new career mark with 11 digs. 

The Waves had a trio of players finish with 10 or more kills, led by David Wieczorek's 14. Pepperdine doubled up UCSB on aces, eight to four, but was out-hit by a decent margin (.246 to .190). 

Despite six kills from Chavers in the first, UCSB was bested as the Waves were able to hit a robust .433 for the set including just three attack errors. 

Thanks to 4.5 blocks, including three from Truman alone, UCSB was able to limit Pepperdine to a .067 clip in the second set. Despite their prowess at the net, the Gauchos still had to bust off a late run to win the set, pulling out three straight points – including a pair or Waves' attacking errors forced by the strong serving of sophomore Casey McGarry – to close it out. 

The third was the closest set of the night, with the two teams tying 11 times and swapping the lead six times. No team led by more than two except when the Gauchos briefly led by three on a DeWeese-Connor Drake (five kills on nine swings, four blocks) double-block, but the Waves quickly wiped that margin out with a 4-1 run that tied it at 22-22. UCSB was the first to reach set point when Chavers' eighth kill of the frame made it 24-23, but Pepperdine won the final three points to take the set and the match-lead.

UCSB led by a healthy margin for most of the fourth set, using an 8-2 run to open up a 16-9 lead on the Waves. The Gauchos had a scare late, as a 24-17 lead was reduced to 24-22 as the Waves repelled five straight set points, but UCSB ultimately broke through on a Sanders kill. 

The Gauchos looked to have the momentum early on in the fifth, most notable when Chavers ripped a serve off the chest of Pepperdine's Alex Harthaller to make it 5-3 and force a timeout, and they had a three-point lead when the teams switched sides midway through. UCSB would eventually go up 11-9, but Pepperdine rallied to take six of the final seven points and the match. The Waves' Max Chamberlain ended the contest with back-to-back aces. 

UCSB is next in action on Friday night, hosting UC San Diego in the first-ever men's volleyball league match in the history of the Big West Conference. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.