The No. 6 UCSB men’s volleyball team opened Big West play with its fifth straight win on Friday night at Rob Gym, topping No. 11 UC San Diego in four sets, 25-20, 23-25, 25-19, 25-21.
After missing last week’s matches against BYU, middle blocker Brandon Hicks returned to the starting lineup in style. The junior tied a season-high with seven blocks to lead all players and had five kills.
In a defensive effort which held the Tritons (7-6) to a .128 hitting night, three Gauchos went for double-digits in the dig department for the first time this year. Setter Patrick Paragas went for a match-high 12. Outside hitter Ryan Wilcox and libero Ryan Pecsok both had 10.
Match-highs from Paragas (35 assists) and Wilcox (14 kills) also saw them record UCSB’s second and third double-doubles of the season. Paragas also doubled his previous career-best with four aces.
Sophomore outside hitters Dayne Chalmers and Nick Amoruso finished with eight kills apiece.
UCSB won the first set 25-20.
The Gauchos (10-4) fought through set one with a balanced offensive attack, as Wilcox Hicks and Amoruso all tallied three kills. Tied 16-16, UCSB scored five of the next six points, a run capped by a Rees Barnett ace.
UCSB’s largest lead of the set came on the final two points, a Triton service error followed by an attacking error.
UCSD took the second set 25-23.
Both teams’ offenses got on track in set two as UCSD posted a .367 clip compared to .344 for UCSB. The Tritons fended off a late Gaucho rally thanks to five kills by Kyle McCauley and the final kill from Nick Rigo.
UCSB won the third set 25-19.
Set three was the only one in which a team was held under 20 points, as UCSB continued to hit at an efficient rate (.333) while holding the Tritons (.179).
Wilcox had his most prolific game of the night, going for five kills on nine attempts. He, Pecsok and Paragas also combined for 11 of UCSB’s 13 digs, their most in any set.
Junior opposite Haotian Xia entered off the bench for the last few points, providing the final touches to put UCSB up 2-1 with his first kill after being out of the lineup for the past six matches.
And UCSB won the fourth set 25-21.
Things appeared headed toward a fifth set with the Tritons jumping out to a 14-8 lead.
Down 16-11, Wilcox started a crucial run with another kill. With Chalmers at the service line, that was followed by three consecutive blocks, all of which involved both Paragas and Hicks.
The Gauchos finally took the lead, 20-19, on Wilcox’s 14th and final kill of the night. Middle blocker Donovan Todorov and Chalmers had back-to-back big kills to get UCSB to match point and a Triton service error would end the night.
On Thursday, the Gauchos will continue their home stand against Cal Lutheran.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.