Coming into this weekend’s home and home series with No. 3 ranked Long Beach State, the No. 6-ranked UCSB men’s volleyball team was riding a nine-match winning streak and was unbeaten in Big West Conference play.
However, The Beach brought the Gauchos back down to earth with a four-set victory on Friday night before defeating UCSB in straight sets 25-21, 26-24 25-22 on Saturday night at Rob Gym.
“Both teams are really talented and I think that for us we did a great job of staying really balanced with our emotions, preparation, serving, passing all facets of the game for much longer periods of time,” said Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe. “That’s been a big push in our gym and I think they did a nice job with that.”
Alex Nikolov and Spencer Olivier led Long Beach State offensively with 17 and 15 kills respectively. UCSB was led by Ryan Wilcox who finished with ten kills. No other Gauchos reached double figures in kills.
Long Beach State was in control throughout set one after dropping the opening set on Friday night. Olivier clinched a 1-0 set lead for The Beach with a perfectly placed spike to the back corner of the court.
In set two, UCSB flipped the script and appeared primed to even the match at one set apiece after an ace serve by setter Patrick Paragas gave the Gauchos a 14-11 lead and forced a Long Beach State timeout. But The Beach slowly crept back into the set and evened the score at 18-18, following a spike off the block by Clarke Godbold.
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The two teams went back and forth until a cross-court spike by Nikolov gave Long Beach State a 2-0 set lead.
“Long Beach played well. Credit to them for beating us in three. You have to go after a team like that. You have to serve tough because you know that they are going to be serving tough and you have to pass well,” said UCSB assistant coach Blaine Nielsen. “I think they just executed a little bit better tonight. We’re just going to focus on getting better until the end of the season.”
Set three was close early but Long Beach State opened up some breathing room with a team block that increased its lead to 17-15. A kill by Nikolov put The Beach ahead 23-20 and they finished the match with a cross-court spike by Godbold.
The Gauchos hit .263 as a team and got a solid match from Dayne Chalmers who finished with seven kills and hit .385 individually.
UCSB (14-6 overall, 3-2 Big West) will continue Big West Conference play at UC Irvine on Wednesday, March 30.