SAN DIEGO – No. 15 UC Santa Barbara pulled off a 3-0 sweep of UC San Diego on Friday night at the RIMAC Arena to win its third straight match and move to 2-0 in Big West play. Set scores were 25-20, 25-21, 25-20.
Sophomore opposite and San Diego native Keenan Sanders was once again the offensive standout for UCSB (7-5), pounding down a match-high 17 kills on .512 hitting to make him UCSB's leader in kills in six of the last seven matches. With Sanders leading the way, the Gauchos outhit UCSD (8-8, 0-2 Big West) .326 to .244 while maintaining sizable advantages in blocking (11-6) and service aces (five to one).
Sophomore middle blocker Brandon Hopper was the Gauchos' biggest difference-maker at the net, recording a team-high seven blocks. Right behind him was sophomore setter Randy DeWeese, who added six blocks and posted a 29-assist, 10-dig double-double.
UCSD was led by outside hitter Tanner Syftestad, who registered 16 kills on 30 swings.
The Gauchos established the tone for the match early, notching 5.5 blocks in the first set to go ahead 1-0. The key run in that frame came with UCSB already up 15-12, as the Gauchos reeled off five of six points in a run, featuring a pair of kills from junior outside Corey Chavers (six kills, two aces overall) and a Gaucho triple block, that made it 20-13.
UCSB had its work cut out in the middle frame, needing to overcome a 13-9 deficit early on. The Gauchos responded to that hole with aplomb, storming back with an 8-1 run capped off by a DeWeese-Hopper double block to take a solid 17-14 lead. A kill off the dump from DeWeese on the next play made it 18-14, and UCSB more or less maintained that edge to the end of the second set.
Similar to Thursday night's decisive fourth set against USC in which he had a dozen kills, Sanders put the Gauchos on his back and carried them to the finish line with a standout nine-kill performance in the third against the Tritons as the Gauchos hit a robust .452 to close it out.
The Gauchos return to Rob Gym next week to host Fort Wayne on Friday night and Ball State on Saturday night in non-conference action.