In their last home match of the season, the Gauchos honored their sole senior, Blaine Nielsen, in a pre-game ceremony. The festivities would not end there however, as UCSB rolled to a four-game victory over the University of Hawai'i Warriors on Saturday night, propelled to victory by superlative performances from Nielsen, outside hitter Miles Evans, and middle locker Dylan Davis.
Nielsen, who received a warm ovation from his teammates and the Gaucho faithful at the Thunderdome, did a little bit of everything against Hawai'i, posting a line of eight blocks, six kills, six digs, and an ace.
Miles Evans, who has been the focal point of UCSB's attack all year, gave his best performace of the season on Saturday night, picking up a career high in kills with 21 and tying a career high with three service aces.
Dylan Davis dominated the play at the net, recording 12 total blocks- the second highest total of his career. Dylan also put down seven kills over the course of the match.
UCSB's record improved to 7-15, 5-15, and they now have sole possession of tenth place in the MPSF.
The victory was the second in as many nights over the Warriors, who now occupy last place in the MPSF conference and have been eliminated from postseason contention. Game scores for the match were 20-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-21. This was the first match in almost a month in which the Gauchos played more than three games- the last time being Mar. 9 against UC San Diego.
Though the Gauchos' victory was somewhat overwhelming, their play at the beginning of the match was anything but. UCSB recorded six team blocks in the initial set, but were unable to take advantage of their strong defensive play due to the shoddy attacking. UCSB hit just .043 for the game, by far their lowest clip of the match. Davis had five of his 12 blocks in the game.
Miles Evans began to take the game over in the second set, recording 18.5 points over the middle two games. The Gauchos held the lead at all points in the two games, suffocating the Hawai'i offense at the net. UCSB was especially impressive in the third game, when they claimed six of the first seven points and limited the Warriors to just 13 total points and a sideout percentage of 43%.
A strong fourth-set performance was capped off by a match-clinching solo block from the man of the hour- Blaine Nielsen.
Junior setter Oliver Deutschman had 41 assists for the Gauchos, while sophomore libero tied with Evans' 8 digs for the match lead.
For the Warriors, Steven Hunt had 14 kills to lead the team. Setter Sam Biscaro led his squad in blocks with four, while also tallying 39 assists.
With two games left to go in the season, the Gauchos still have the ability to get into the MPSF postseason tournament. Wins in both those matches, coupled by losses from UC San Diego and Cal State Northridge- the current owners of the eighth and final playoff spot- would lead to a postseason berth for UCSB.