Gauchos Win Third Straight Match Over No. 6 Long Beach, Improve to Third in Conference

Photo by Tony Mastres
Photo by Tony Mastres

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- The No. 7 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos won their third straight game, defeating equally matched No. 6 Long Beach State in four tightly contested sets (30-28, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20). With the win, and Pepperdine's concurrent loss at UC Irvine, the Gauchos now move into third place in the MPSF conference standings with a record of 8-3 overall, 7-3 in conference.

Despite a slow start to the first set, the Gauchos displayed the intensity that has become commonplace over the past few games to pull out the win. Initially down 13-6, UCSB scratched back to tie the set at 19 behind the eight kills of senior outside hitter Matt Hanley. Additionally, Austin Kingi and Evan Licht tacked on four additional kills each. Licht hit for a .667 clip, recorded a block, and finished the set off with the winning service ace.            

Long Beach rebounded strongly, winning the second set by capitalizing on a dominant net presence and strong swings from Taylor Crabb. Crabb finished the night with 16 kills, two service aces, and assisted in two blocks.

The Gauchos developed a rhythm in their third set win that carried over into the fourth set. Kingi, Hanley, and Licht powered through the Long Beach net presence that was able to tally 15 team blocks. Kingi's seven kills for the fourth set gave him a total for 20 on the night, while Licht and Hanley finished with 17 kills each. Neither Kingi nor Licht hit less than four kills per set. Defensively, senior libero Austin Kingi bested his previous performance with a new season high for digs (14). Setter Jonah Seif also had an impressive performance with 52 assists and was one dig away from a double-double with nine.

When asked about UCSB's ability to pull out the close win, assistant Coach Tyson Norton noted, "We did a good job of taking advantage of our opportunities tonight against a team that's right next to us in the rankings."

The Gauchos look forward to a rematch against former No. 1 Stanford in Palo Alto next Friday, February 21. UCSB bested the Cardinal in five sets in front of an electric Rob Gym in their last meeting. After a four game road trip, the Gauchos return home to play UCLA in March at the Thunder Dome.