A two-week break in the schedule resulted in considerable rust for the UCSB men’s volleyball team in its return to action on Friday night.
Despite their struggles, the third-ranked Gauchos were able to grind out a 25-20. 25-22, 32-30 victory over 12th-ranked Cal State Northridge in a Big West Conference match.
“I don’t think we were very sharp tonight. We definitely looked a little complacent at least from the bench,” said UCSB assistant coach Cullen Irons. “ We saw last week that No. 1 (ranked) Long Beach got taken out by No. 9 (ranked) USC. Nobody is safe and we just can’t take any nights off.”
Corey Chavers led the way for UCSB with 14 kills, but it took 33 swings as the visiting Matadors locked in on the senior outside hitter. The extra attention on Chavers opened the door for freshman Ryan Wilcox to get 1-on-1 opportunities and he made the most of them.
Wilcox finished with 12 kills on 23 swings and came through in clutch moments to secure the sweep.
“Especially with Ryan Wilcox you have to go really fast. Usually the middles hang in so that gives them less time to get out and get the block, so going really fast with him is huge,” said UCSB setter Casey McGarry, who finished with a match-high 37 assists. “Every team we play always keys in on Corey (Chavers) so we always have to play around that, but I think we did a good job with the fast tempo to the pins.”
In the first set, a cross-court spike by Wilcox put the Gauchos in front 10-9 and they never looked back after six ties and two lead changes early in the set.
A soft tap over the block and down by Chavers clinched set two for UCSB.
The third set was hotly contested from the beginning and featured 23 ties and nine lead changes. The Gauchos took a 31-30 lead on a well-placed tap to an open spot on the court by Wilcox. And clinched the match on a Spence Fredrick ace serve.
Frederick finished with 11 kills on 30 swings.
The Gauchos will finish off the back half of the home and home series at Cal State Northridge on Saturday beginning at 7 p.m.