Gauchos Head Into Bye Week After Four-Set Loss to Concordia

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

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 15 UC Santa Barbara wrapped up a four-match homestand on Wednesday night with a 3-1 loss to Concordia Irvine in non-conference action at Rob Gym, 25-22, 25-17, 15-25, 29-27. 

Forty-eight hours after overcoming a 2-0 deficit to beat Harvard, UCSB (10-12) looked like it had another comeback up its sleeve on Wednesday, dominating the third set and reaching game point in the fourth, but CUI (17-7) regrouped to pull out the win. 

Freshman outside hitter Roy McFarland led the team with 14 kills on the night, while freshman middle Keenan Sanders added a dozen kills on .455 hitting with a team-best four blocks. Senior libero Parker Boehle was impressive in his two sets of action, steadying the defense with 12 digs. 

The Eagles meanwhile were buoyed by Jonathon Predney's match-high 15 kills and an eight-kill, eight-block performance from middle Hunter Howell. 

Like Monday's win, UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin made a number of lineup changes after going down 2-0, moving Grady Yould from libero to outside and bringing in outside hitter Owen Karlenzig, middle blocker Brandon Hopper, and libero Parker Boehle.

Those moves seemed to pay big dividends, as the Gauchos responded with a dominant third set to cut their deficit to one. 

UCSB hit a match-high .429 in the frame, and built its lead on a pair of long service runs from Karlenzig and Yould, bringing the score from 7-7 to 14-8. Yould finished off the job his next time through the rotation, closing the set on a 4-0 run. Sanders had his best offensive set in the third, notching a team-high five kills, including a quick hit to the back left corner to seal the win.

Six kills from McFarland and eight digs from Boehle highlighted the Gauchos' fourth set performance, but a questionable call down the stretch and clutch plays from CUI prevented a potential UCSB comeback. 

Leading 26-25, the Gauchos thought they had the set won when they were able to stuff a Predney right-side swing, but the block was deemed to be just out of bounds, knotting the score up at 26-all. 

CUI responded with a 3-1 run to clinch the match, including consecutive blocks on McFarland swings to end it. 

Elsewhere in the MPSF, Pepperdine defeated CSUN in five sets on Wednesday night, creating a three-way tie (UCSB, CSUN, USC) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. Seventh-place Pepperdine sits just a half-game in front of the eighth-place teams. 

After taking next week off for final exams, UCSB begins its stretch run with a pair of pivotal league road matches, first at Cal Baptist on Thursday, Mar. 30 then at USC on Friday, Mar. 31.