SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The No. 8 Gauchos made quick work of visiting Concordia on Tuesday night, sweeping the Eagles en route to their fifth straight win. UCSB has now won each of their last seven home contests, with their last loss in Santa Barbara coming at the hands of UC Irvine on Jan. 31. Set scores for the match went 25-21, 25-23, 25-16.
With the win, the Gauchos improved to an even 12-12 overall, the first time they have had a .500 winning percentage or better since Jan. 18 when they were 3-3. Still at 8-10 in MPSF play, the Gauchos are in a three-way tie for the seventh spot in the conference standings with Cal Baptist and Cal State Northridge. Concordia – who entered the match ranked No. 1 in the NAIA – fell to 21-6 with the loss.
"We started out a little slow," said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. "They really put pressure on us in the second game. We had to turn it on in the end, and that's what we did. We still have some work to do to get prepared for [this weekend's opponent] Hawai'i, but we'll get it done."
The Gauchos dominated the play at the net, recording 11 blocks as a team compared to Concordia's two. Jake Staahl, Jonah Seif, and Dylan Davis each recorded five block assists, with Davis adding a solo block as well. Miles Evans (three block assists) and Evan Licht (two block assists) also chipped in at the net.
In a fairly balanced offensive effort, Licht stood out the most, tallying a match-high 11 kills on 25 swings. Davis was his usual efficient self, picking up eight kills on just 11 swings for a .636 hitting percentage. Staahl equaled Davis's clip by putting down seven kills in 11 errorless swings. Evans also recorded no errors on the night – just the second time he has accomplished that feat in his UCSB career – ending the night with eight kills on 21 swings. Setter Jonah Seif racked up 35 assists in the win.
The Gauchos claimed the first and third sets of the match in relatively easy fashion, but actually had to come back in the middle game. Trailing 17-21, Licht had an attack blocked to extend the Gauchos deficit to a foreboding five points. From there, Concordia committed errors on three consecutive points (one service, two attacking) and Austin Kingi – who finished with five kills and five digs – landed a kill to bring the Gauchos within one. After trading points, Licht and Staahl teamed up to block a Parker Del Re attack to tie the score at 23-23. Kingi would add another kill to make it set point, where Evans blasted a kill on a putback to put the Gauchos up 2-0.
UCSB would clinch the match with a blistering .650 team hitting percentage in the third frame.
Junior libero Chad Kingi finished the night with 11 kills, giving him double-digit kills for the twelfth time this year.
Next up, the Gauchos will travel to Hawai'i to take on the Warriors in a pair of pivotal games on Friday and Saturday night. Hawai'i, who possesses an 8-12 conference record, is also in contention for one of the eight spots in the MPSF tournament.