HONOLULU, Hawaii – For the third time this season, No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara played defending champions and No. 1 seed Long Beach State tough, taking a set from the 49ers to even the match at 1-1, but it was not enough as the Beach rallied to defeat the Gauchos 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 25-17) in the Big West Tournament Semifinals on Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Senior Corey Chavers paced the UCSB (18-10) offense on the night with 13 kills while junior Brandon Hopper produced a season-best 10 kills. Ryan Wilcox and Keenan Sanders contributed seven kills apiece while Randy DeWeese finished with 37 assists.
Long Beach hit .404 (55-11-109) on the night and hit above .500 in both the third and fourth sets while UCSB finished hitting .238 (43-18-105) and was out-blocked 17-9.
In the opening set, it was the trio of Wilcox, Chavers and Hopper that kept UCSB neck and neck with the 49ers as the two teams were tied at 15-15 midway through the first set. The Beach responded to a UCSB run with a 5-2 run of their own to create some separation with a 20-17 advantage and held on to put the first set away 25-19.
In the second, the Gauchos took control from the beginning with three straight points highlighted by a Wilcox service ace. A big block from Spencer Fredrick and Sanders gave UCSB a 15-13 lead at the first media timeout, and another pair of blocks, this time from Chavers, Sanders and DeWeese helped Santa Barbara take a 20-16 lead. Kills from Hopper and Wilcox down the stretch gave the Gauchos the 25-21 set win and evened the match at 1-1.
After a 10-minute break between the sets, Long Beach came out with four of the first six points and held a steady lead throughout while hitting .545 (12-0-22) with no errors to take the third set 25-18.
The fourth set followed a similar pattern as Long Beach jumped out to a 6-3 lead and then Kyle Ensing took over, finishing with eight of his match-high 18 kills in the set. The Beach outhit UCSB .571 to .211 to take the final frame 25-17.
UCSB, the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, will hope for one of the two at-large bids to get into the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Men's Volleyball Selection Show will air this Sunday, Apr. 21 at 10:00 a.m. on NCAA.com.