IRVINE, Calif.- Following the sweep of Pacific, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos travelled south to face defending national champions UC Irvine. Previously defeated in five sets at home, the Gauchos were unable to overcome UCI on the road (25-17, 25-19, 24-26, 25-20). UCSB overall drops to 9-5 overall, 8-5 MPSF.
The Gauchos were unable to sustain a lead early in the first set, down 3-8 before their first timeout. Despite the four kills by Matt Hanley and three kills by Evan Licht, UCSB could not pull out the win in the first set. UCI blocked three of the Gauchos' swings at the net while also forcing multiple errors.
The second set witnessed the Gauchos pull out to a three-point lead before being the Anteaters forced a tie. Led by Hanley, Licht, and Weston Neilson's three kills each, UCSB kept the score tight as UCI pulled ahead 17-20. The Gauchos fought to keep the score close towards the end of the set but could not prevent UCI from winning the set.
UCSB found its intensity in the beginning of the third set. Neilson set the tone for the Gauchos, slamming six kills for the team. Backing up Neilson's performance in the set was Licht's six kills. Meanwhile, Kingi and Staahl added two kills each. Defensively, UCSB responded to the Anteater net presence with four team blocks. Neilson and Jonah Seif each had a hand in two blocks while Matt Hanley, Ryan Hardy, and Jake Staahl each had an assist in one block.
Despite a strong attack from four kills by Licht and three kills by Neilson, the Gauchos were unable to pull out another set win. Overall, Evan Licht slammed 16 kills on the night while Weston Neilson hammered another 12 kills. As well, Ryan Hardy assisted in six of the Gauchos' blocks.
UCSB travels next to UC San Diego at 7 p.m. before returning home March 5 to face UCLA. The Gauchos previously lost to the Bruins in straight sets at Rob Gym.