SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Behind a balanced offense directed by sophomore setter Randy DeWeese, the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team hit .348 Saturday evening en route to a sweep of No. 8 Stanford in the final contest of the 2018 UCSB Asics Invitational. Set scores were 25-18, 25-20, 25-22.
No UCSB (2-1) player finished with double-digit kills, despite a 31-assist night from DeWeese, but Saturday night was a rare example of when having no 10+ kill players is a good thing, as each Gaucho starter chipped in between four and nine kills as part of an extremely balanced offensive effort.
With nine kills apiece, sophomore outside hitter Roy McFarland and junior outside Corey Chavers led the Gaucho offense statistically. However, sophomore opposite Spencer Fredrick (six kills) and middles Jack Truman (five kills on eight swings) and Brandon Hopper (four kills) also had their moments in the spotlight.
The steady performance by the home side completed a nightmare opening weekend for Stanford, which dropped to 0-3. The Cardinal hit just .165 on the night and were out-performed in nearly every statistical measure.
"I thought that our guys did an excellent job of executing the game plan tonight," said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. "We went over our scouting report and challenged our guys to get serious and put that plan into action, and I thought they responded really well."
Led by three kills apiece from sophomore outside hitter Roy McFarland and junior middle blocker Brandon Hopper, the Gauchos took it to Stanford in the opening set with a blistering .579 hitting percentage. UCSB prevented the visitors from gaining any momentum by successfully siding out 16 times out of 18 chances, keeping them at a safe distance after establishing an early 12-6 lead.
Tough serving helped the Gauchos force Stanford into a number of errors in the middle set, helping turn around a 7-10 deficit into a 17-13 lead via a 10-3 run. The Cardinal would finish the frame with seven attack errors – helped along by three UCSB blocks – and a further seven errors off the serve.
UCSB faced its toughest test in the third, once again going behind early at 9-11. Once again the Gauchos swung back with a big run to reestablish control – a long service run from DeWeese including one of his team-leading two aces reeled off five straight for the Gauchos to make it 14-11 – but this time the Cardinal stuck around to make it close down the stretch.
Fortunately for the Gauchos, McFarland (five kills on seven swings) and Chavers (four kills) saved their most effective offensive sets for the third, helping them hold off Stanford and never bring the cushion below two points until the very end when a Kyler Presho service ace made the Gauchos sweat at 23-22.
After a McLaughlin timeout, UCSB regrouped and found McFarland for clutch kills on back-to-back plays to put away the match.
Following the conclusion of the tournament, both McFarland and UCSB libero Grady Yould, who had a combined 20 digs on the weekend, were named to the All-Tournament Team.
With the Asics Invitational in the rearview mirror, the Gauchos now hit the road for an extended road trip, starting next weekend with contests at UCLA on Friday, Jan. 12 and USC on Saturday, Jan. 13.
UCSB Asics Invitational All-Tournament Team
MVP: TJ DeFalco – Outside Hitter (Long Beach State)
Arvis Greene Jr – Opposite (CSUN)
Shannon Heckman – Libero (NJIT)
George Huhmann – Opposite (Princeton)
Kevin Rakestraw – Middle Blocker (Stanford)
Stephen Braswell – Outside Hitter (St. Francis)
Roy McFarland – Outside Hitter (UCSB)
Grady Yould – Libero (UCSB)
Josh Tuaniga – Setter (Long Beach St.)