Gauchos Roll Past UC Santa Cruz in Wednesday Tuneup

Weston Nielsen (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Weston Nielsen (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Fresh off a third place finish in the 50th annual UCSB Invitational, the Gauchos kept their high level of play going in a 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-20) exhibition sweep of Division III opponent UC Santa Cruz, who was playing its first match of the season.

UCSB, who entered the week with a 1-0 record and the No. 10 ranking in the country, hit at a  collective .420 clip for the match. The Gauchos offense was led by middle blocker Ryan Thompson and outside hitter Matt Hanley, who each finished with eight kills. Both were extremely efficient against the Banana Slugs, with Thompson taking just 10 swings and Hanley taking 13.

At the center of the UCSB offense was setter Jonah Seif, who puzzled the UCSC front row en route to a match-high 35 assists. He was one of four Gauchos, along with Thompson, middle blocker Ryan Hardy, and outside hitter Weston Nielsen, to finish with a match-high three blocks.

Outside hitter Austin Kingi had an effective night, putting down seven kills and two aces while leading all players with seven digs.

After cruising to wins in the match's first two sets, UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin used the opportunity to spell Hanley and Kingi, bringing in Nielsen and Kevin Donohue.

Nielsen lit up the scoresheet in his one set of action, picking up seven kills on nine swings while adding a pair of service aces and three blocks.

After leading by as many as eight points in the final set, the Banana Slugs were able to inch back into the game and make the score 19-17 in favor of UCSB. Three Nielsen kills and a UCSC service error brought it to match point, with Nielsen's rough serve forcing a Santa Cruz attacking error and clinching the match for the Gauchos.

UCSB will wrap up its regular season nonconference schedule this Friday night when they host Concordia (Calif.) at 7:00 p.m. The MPSF schedule gets under way next Friday, Jan. 17 as the Gauchos take on Pacific at Rob Gym.