Sanders Leads No. 13 UCSB to Sweep of Lees-McRae

Keenan Sanders (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Keenan Sanders (photo by Eric Isaacs)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Behind 11 kills on .562 hitting and a career-high five aces from freshman middle blocker Keenan Sanders, No. 13 UC Santa Barbara swept past Lees-McRae on Saturday afternoon to finish off play in the Penn State Tournament, 25-16, 25-16, 25-10.

UCSB improved to 8-10 overall and 4-1 in non-league play with the win, while Lees-McRae dropped to 5-11 with the defeat. 

Similar to Friday's non-conference loss to Penn State, UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin played a numer of non-regulars in the match. The newcomers performed fairly well, helping the team to a .361 hitting percentage, with redshirt freshman Brandon Hopper putting down eight kills on 11 swings in his first collegiate start. 

Freshman setter Randy DeWeese performed well for the second night in a row, totaling 25 assists and adding five digs. 

Lees-McRae struggled to a .068 team hitting percentage, with only two hitters finishing with more than three kills. 

UCSB used a 4-0 run in the first to turn a 10-12 deficit into a 14-12 advantage thanks to a pair of kills and a block from Sanders. The Gauchos held on to that advantage until reeling off six straight points behind Roy McFarland's serving to close out the set, including a pair of double-blocks from Hopper and Spencer Fredrick (five kills, six digs, four blocks).

Strong serving from McFarland helped UCSB pull ahead in set number two as well, as he led the Gauchos to five straight points to make it 11-7. Later in the frame, back to back aces from Sanders brought it to 19-11. A while later, McFarland chipped in kills on consecutive points to bring up set point, with LMC's Rudy Klaas serving into the net to end it. 

It was all UCSB in the third, as the Gauchos jumped out to a 7-1 lead early and never looked back. UCSB hit a robust .533 for the set, with Sanders contributing six points (four kills, an ace, two block assists) to lead the way. 

The Gauchos return to Rob Gym next week for a pair of matches, first against CSUN on Wednesday in a battle between two teams fighting for an MPSF Tournament spot and then against Lewis in a non-conference showdown on Saturday.