No. 6 UCSB Stays Perfect in February with Penn State Sweep

Haotian Xia had four kills in his return to the lineup on Saturday. (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Haotian Xia had four kills in his return to the lineup on Saturday. (Photo by Tony Mastres)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – It has been a favorable February for the No. 6 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team, who has yet to lose a set this month after picking up its fourth consecutive sweep with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-21) victory over Penn State on Saturday night at the Walter Pyramid.

UCSB (11-3) has now won eight consecutive matches overall and sets up a showdown this Wednesday with No. 4 UCLA at Rob Gym.

"It was a good job by our guys getting two wins on the road during midterms," said head coach Rick McLaughlin. "We are looking forward to returning to Rob Gym next week to face UCLA. We are a much better team than we were a month ago when we faced them and it should be a great match."

On Saturday, the Gauchos followed up their strong win over Ohio State on Friday with another efficient offensive effort and overwhelming play at the net defensively. UCSB outhit the Nittany Lions .337 (38-10-83) to .163 (32-18-86) and out-blocked its opponent 18-5.

Freshman Brandon Hicks led the way defensively with a career-high seven blocks while Corey Chavers had his eighth straight double-digit kill match with a match-high 14 on .429 hitting (14-2-28).

UCSB set the tone for the night in the very first set after jumping out to a quick 6-1 lead. It was an all-around effort on the offensive end as five different Gauchos registered a kill in the early going. Santa Barbara racked up a set-high 14 kills in the first frame while hitting .344 (14-3-32) and never looked back after its early lead, cruising to a 25-20 set victory.

The second set was a true seesaw affair that featured 17 ties and nine lead changes. Once again, UCSB was efficient with its attacking, hitting .364 (11-3-22) and pulled away late behind clutch play from Chavers and Keenan Sanders. A Chavers kill tied the score at 22-22, and after falling behind, Sanders came through to tie the score again at 23-23. A big block from Hicks and Randy DeWeese gave the Gauchos set point, and a Penn State attacking error finished off the game, 25-23, in favor of UCSB.

The third and final set saw the Gauchos score seven of the first 10 points to take a 7-3 lead, and they stayed in the driver's seat for the remainder of the game. Chavers had five of his kills in the frame, holding off any chance of a Penn State comeback.

After Chavers' 14 kills, Ryan Wilcox chipped in with seven and Sanders with five. DeWeese dished out 28 assists as well as tallying five kills, five digs and four blocks. Wilcox also led the team with seven digs and Hayden Boehle finished with six.

UCSB will host UCLA, this Wednesday, Feb. 13 inside Rob Gym at 7:00 p.m.