SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Led by dominant offensive performances from outside hitter Jacob Delson and Henri Cherry and helped by strong debuts from freshman setters Randy DeWeese and Casey McGarry, UCSB won a pair of four-set contests against non-conference foes McKendree and Mt. Olive on Friday to open the 2017 season at the Asics/South Coast Inn-vitational.
A veteran leader on a team that lost four starters from a season ago, Delson recorded two of the three-most prolific offensive performances in his career on Friday, including a career-best 21 kills against Mt. Olive.
"He played great today, and he's going to have to do that when you have a young team around you," said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. "He's got to carry them on his back a little bit and he did that in both matches."
With the pair of triumphs, UCSB has now won 11 straight Asics Invitational matches dating back to 2013.
Delson was far from the only Gaucho to put on an impressive display in his 2017 debut.
Cherry was a force to reckon with in the middle, totaling 19 kills for the day on .826 hitting. Junior outside hitter Hayden Boehle was also a solid performer all day long, notching 24 kills and finishing a dig short of a double-double against Mt. Olive.
At the center of it all were newcomers DeWeese and McGarry, who steered the team to .447 and .426 hitting percentage, respectively. Both averaged over 10 assists per set, while McGarry finished with 53 assists in his debut.
In the back row, Parker Boehle scooped up 22 digs including 14 in the latter contest.
UCSB will finish up the Asics/South Coast Inn-vitational tomorrow evening with a 6:30 matchup against Fort Wayne (formerly IPFW). For a complete schedule of the tournament, click here.
Match One Recap
UCSB shook off a slow start in the season and tournament-opening match against MIVA member McKendree, dropping the first set but then hitting a blistering .522 the rest of the match to claim a four-set win, 22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-13.
Senior outside hitter Jacob Delson was at the center of the comeback, picking up just one kill in set one but then recovering for at least five in each subsequent game to finish with a match-high 17, just one off his career best entering Friday.
The Westlake Village native keyed a dominant fourth game performance for UCSB, dropping six kills on nine swings and recording three consecutive late-game aces to cement the victory.
UCSB's two middles were all but unstoppable off the quick set, combining for 20 kills on 26 attempts. Sophomore Henri Cherry was especially impressive, notching 11 on just 13 swings while sophomore Connor Drake finished one short of double-digits at nine kills on 13 hits.
Having opened their season on Wednesday at Pepperdine, McKendree looked ready to play at the outset of the match, hitting a solid .304 in the first game with a balanced offense that saw four hitters record multiple kills. The Bearcats used a mid-game 8-4 run to pull away at 18-14, then were able to side out on all but one of UCSB's serves the rest of the way for a 25-22 win.
McKendree's upper hand was short-lived however, as UCSB's offense came out in dominant fashion in the second. Delson (five kills) and fellow outside Hayden Boehle (three) combined for eight kills on just 11 swings while four other hitters turned in single errorless attacks to help UCSB to a .733 attacking clip. The Bearcats kept it relatively close thanks to five kills from Wyatt Patterson, who finished with a team-high 12.
The Gauchos kept it rolling in the third, turning an 11-7 deficit into a 14-11 lead thanks to a long serving run from Boehle, who turned in a pair of kills himself during the spree. UCSB's lead only increased from there, as Cherry dominated to the tune of four kills on the final seven points as part of a seven-kill game.
UCSB put it in the bag with an overwhelming fourth game performance. An ace and back-to-back blocks from middle Connor Drake and setter Randy Deweese kicked off a 7-0 run for the home side with Cherry at the line that put it out of reach at 18-9. Delson followed with his three straight aces to clinch the win.
Making his official NCAA debut, highly tauted freshman setter Randy Deweese ran a solidly-executed offense and finished with 45 assists. The 6-6 rookie did well in other areas as well, grabbing three kills on four swings and finishing second on the team in blocks (four) and digs (seven).
Libero Parker Boehle, who had the fourth-best digs average in the MPSF last year, got his year off to a solid start with eight scoops.
Match Two Recap
Rocking a slightly different lineup – McGarry at setter, Corey Chavers at opposite, and Keenan Sanders in the middle – UCSB came out with all cylinders firing against Mount Olive of the Conference Carolinas, leading to a dominant first game victory. The rest of the match wouldn't come quite as easily, but the Gauchos were still able to fend the Trojans off for the 25-14, 24-26, 25-15, 25-22 win.
Delson was once again the go-to man on offense as he notched a career-best 21 kills. He was followed by Hayden Boehle – who had 13 kills and was a key performer down the stretch – and the freshman middle Sanders who had 10 kills on 15 swings. Cherry wasn't set as often as in the morning game, but still managed eight kills from 10 swings.
In a game filled with long rallies, Parker Boehle was a huge reason UCSB was able to stay in it, piling up a match-high 14 digs.
As a team, the Gauchos were on their game from the service line totaling 11 aces which is more than they had in any match last season.
In the opening set, UCSB won the first two points and then never looked back, using a 8-1 run to storm out to a commanding 21-10 lead. Hayden Boehle had four kills and an ace during that run, and Delson took advantage of some poor blocking for seven kills in the frame.
Mt. Olive brought in a new setter to open the second game, and that seemed to turn things around for them. The Trojans hit a solid .355 in the second while UCSB dipped to .214, allowing the visitors to hang in the set before pulling off two quick points at the end to even the score at one apiece.
McGarry had arguably his best set in the third, leading the Gaucho turnaround by spreading the offense – five Gauchos had two or three kills – while recording a pair of aces to boot. UCSB didn't have any big run in the frame, but instead won it by siding out on 15 of the 16 points in which Mt. Olive served.
Things tightened back up in the fourth, with the chippy Trojans keeping it close with three blocks, a couple aces, and decent showings on the attack from outside Kian Hollevoet and opposite Bret Rutledge. UCSB was undeterred though as a brilliant performance from Boehle (six kills, four digs) paired with a trio of big plays down the stretch helped the blue-and-gold pull it out.
The first play came courtesy of Boehle, who made a nice dig then finished with a hard spike through the block during the same sequence to end a long rally and bring the score to 18-18 after UCSB had just seen its 16-11 lead evaporate.
Their momentum restored, Delson gave the Gauchos the edge with a nice tip of an over pass at the net to make it 21-19 UCSB, prompting a Mt. Olive timeout. After trading points, Delson and Sanders came up with a huge block of a Robert Poole swing to make it 23-20 and effectively end the match.