SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – It was an exhilarating rematch on Friday night in Rob Gym between the No. 3 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team and No. 1 Long Beach State. One night after the Gauchos took the Beach to the brink in Long Beach, the Gauchos pushed the 49ers to the limit yet again, but ultimately fell 3-1 (29-31, 31-29, 25-14, 26-24) in front of an electrifying crowd of 1,378.
After becoming the first team all season to take Long Beach State (19-0) to a fifth set last night, UCSB (15-5) nearly did so again on Friday, holding match-point in the fourth frame before an incredible 49ers rally clinched the win. Long Beach has lost just four sets all year, with three of them now coming by the hands of the Gauchos.
The 49ers were extremely efficient on the offensive end, hitting .426 (63-11-122) on the night while UCSB finished at a respectable .269 (58-22-134) clip.
As fans poured into the upper deck in Rob Gym, it was the Beach that jumped out to an early 8-3 lead in the first set. The Gauchos kept their composure and rallied for four straight points on a pair of kills from Spencer Fredrick and one kill apiece from Corey Chavers and Ryan Wilcox. Just as UCSB began to make it close, the 49ers spurted ahead again, taking a 17-13 lead. With the crowd behind them, the Gauchos went on a 6-2 run to tie the set at 19-19. Down again, 23-21, Brandon Hicks, Fredrick and Chavers tallied three straight kills for UCSB as the teams continued to go back-and-forth. The Beach staved off six straight match point opportunities from the Gauchos until a kill from Fredrick put away the wild set, 31-29, in favor of Santa Barbara.
UCSB tallied an astonishing 24 kills in the opening frame, with eight kills alone from Fredrick and six from Chavers. The Gauchos hit .476 (24-4-42) while the Beach was also strong with a .361 (16-3-36) hitting percentage.
The second set was more of the same as two of the top teams in the nation needed extra points yet again. Long Beach came out quick once again, taking a 6-3 lead, but UCSB rallied for three straight as part of a 7-2 run to take a 10-8 lead. Back-and-forth they went until the Beach staved off six straight match points from the Gauchos for the second straight set to avoid falling in a 2-0 hole. Down 29-28, the 49ers strung together three straight to take the set 31-29.
It was a deflating defeat for UCSB, who would drop the third set 25-14 after Long Beach jumped out to a quick start, but the Gauchos could not answer. LBSU hit .591 in the third with 13 kills and zero attacking errors to take the 2-1 set advantage.
The Gauchos regrouped in the fourth and looked poised to force a fifth set for the second straight night. Trailing 20-19, UCSB rattled off four straight points behind kills from Chavers, Wilcox, twice, and Fredrick. After a TJ DeFalco kill for the Beach and a LBSU service error, Santa Barbara sat on match point with a 24-21 lead. Then the improbable happened as the 49ers put together five consecutive points to dash the Gauchos' hopes for an upset.
Chavers and Fredrick finished with 16 kills apiece to lead UCSB while Wilcox also reached double-figures with 11. Casey McGarry notched a double-double with 44 assists and 11 digs and Hayden Boehle led the team with 14 digs. Keenan Sanders finished with nine kills on a .467 hitting percentage.
Long Beach State was led by 20 kills from DeFalco while Kyle Ensing tallied 13, and Simon Anderson along with Ethan Siegfried added 10. Setter Josh Tuaniga was a force all night as well with 52 assists, eight digs, and three kills.
UCSB will take a two-week break in the action until Friday, Mar. 29 when it resumes Big West play against No. 12 CSUN in Rob Gym at 7:00 p.m.