SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Seniors Hayden Boehle, Connor Drake and Corey Chavers were recognized prior to the final home match of their careers, but No. 9 UC Irvine would play spoilers as the Anteaters upset No. 3 UCSB, 3-1 (25-17, 22-25, 25-21, 34-32) in the regular season finale at Rob Gym on Saturday night.
With the loss, the Gauchos finish the regular season with a 17-9 overall record and a 4-6 record in conference play to lock up the No. 4 seed in next week's Big West Tournament in Honolulu, Hawaii. UCSB will play No. 5 seed CSUN (13-13, 3-7 Big West) and the winner of that match will play No. 1 seed and conference champion Long Beach State in the semifinals.
In Saturday's finale, UCI outhit the Gauchos .413 to .355 in an efficient night for both teams, but it was the Anteaters that got out to a quick start taking the first set 25-17.
UCSB bounced back in set number two, weathering a .474 clip from UCI while hitting .375 to tie the game at 1-1 after holding on for a 25-22 set win. Randy DeWeese single-handedly helped the Gauchos pull away with four consecutive service aces at one point during the set.
The third set went back and forth, until, with the score in UCI's favor at 19-18, the Anteaters rattled off a critical 6-3 run down the stretch to take the set and with it, the 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was the definition of a seesaw affair as the game featured 24 tie scores and five different lead changes. The Anteaters staved off three consecutive set points for the Gauchos at 26-25, 27-26 and 28-27 before UCSB answered by withstanding the next four match points from UCI. With the score at 33-32, however, UCI put together a powerful block to end the match.
Chavers had an incredible night in his final performance in Rob Gym, tallying a game-high 22 kills to go along with seven digs and a pair of service aces. DeWeese finished with 45 assists and six aces while Ryan Wilcox and Spencer Fredrick also reached double-figure kill totals with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Boehle recorded 10 digs and Brandon Hopper led the team with three blocks.
UCSB will take on CSUN in the Big West Tournament First Round on Thursday, Apr. 18 at 10:30 p.m. PT in the Stan Sheriff Center.