Balanced Gauchos Sweep No. 8 Hawaii

Matt Marsh (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Matt Marsh (Photo by Vince Agapito)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 7 UC Santa Barbara finished off an impressive week with a quick and tidy 3-0 sweep of eighth-ranked Hawaii on Saturday night at Rob Gym, with set scores of 25-18, 25-20, 25-23.

Senior setter Jonah Seif ran a balanced attack for UCSB, which hit .417 for the night and improved to 17-9 overall on the season with a 12-8 mark in conference play.

Junior opposite Matt Marsh was the Gauchos' top hitter with 12 kills, but senior outside hitter Austin Kingi and freshman middle Henri Cherry weren't far behind with nine kills apiece. Cherry's partner at the net, Ryan Hardy, added five kills on nine swings to round out the offense. 

Seif was also instrumental in UCSB's back row play, notching a team-high eight digs. Junior libero Parker Boehle chipped in five digs as well. 

Hawaii struggled to get anything going offensively, as the Rainbow Warriors hit just .225 with no player recording more than eight kills. They made wholesale changes to the lineup in the third set, which seemed to pay dividends as they hit a match-high .281 and were up late in the game, but it ultimately didn't matter as UCSB rebounded to finish off the sweep.

"I really liked how we prepared this week," said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. "When you prepare the right way, you see results on the court and that bore itself out tonight."

The Gauchos were at their best in the opening set, hitting a match-high .500 and having four players record three or four kills. Despite that, it wasn't until late in the frame that UCSB caught its stride, as Hawaii nursed a 14-11 lead a little more than halfway into the stanza. 

McLaughlin's squad caught fire from there, turning the deficit around through a dominant 14-4 run featuring long service runs from Hardy, Seif, and Kingi. Kingi was particulary effective during the surge, knocking down three straight kills to deliver UCSB a 18-16 lead and forcing a UH timeout. Cherry finished the set off with his fourth kill of the night. 

The Gauchos cruised to a 2-0 set lead after practically leading the entire way in the middle frame. Though UCSB didn't pull off any long runs like in the opener, they converted on 80% of their sideout points to prevent UH from picking up any momentum. With four kills apiece in the set, Cherry and Marsh led the Gauchos offense once again. Up comfortably at 24-20, Seif ended the game with a dump off a Kingi pass, his first and only kill of the night. 

Things got dramatic in the third set, as the two teams would combine for 16 ties and seven lead changes. After trading four-point runs early on, it was neck-and-neck down the stretch between the Gauchos and Rainbow Warriors. On a kill from Brett Rosenmeier and back-to-back UCSB hitting errors, UH turned a 20-19 deficit into a 22-20 lead, giving the Warriors their first two-point lead since early in the set. 

Facing a potential fourth game, UCSB punched it up a notch to re-take the lead and finish off the sweep. Sophomore outside hitter Hayden Boehle got it going with a roll shot that went off the block to make it 22-22. Then Matt Marsh got into the action with cross-court kills on two of the next three points to send Cherry to the service line with match point at 24-23. 

Fortunately for UCSB, the freshman middle's jump float serve knicked off the tape and fell untouched on Hawaii's side of the court for a match-ending ace. 

The Gauchos wrap up the regular season next week with a pair of home matches, hosting Pepperdine on Wednesday night and Stanford on Saturday night, with both slated for 7:00 p.m. starts. The UCSB-Pepperdine match will likely determine the fifth place finisher in the MPSF standings.