All Casey McGarry wanted since he began his collegiate playing career with the UCSB men’s volleyball team three years ago as a freshman, was a chance.
A chance to show off his impressive skill set as a setter. Problem was, for the Manhattan Beach native, the Gauchos already had a terrific setter in Randy DeWeese, who, like McGarry, is a senior on this season’s No. 4 ranked UCSB team.
McGarry played at different times over the past three years, but not nearly enough to satisfy the competitive spirit that lies within his 6-foot frame and body.
“We’ve been battling since freshman year,” McGarry said of he and DeWeese. “We’ve had a lot of times where we played 50/50, and we’ve made each other so much better, which was really good.”
So how is that McGarry is the full-time setter on this year’s team with DeWeese also in coach Rick McLaughlin’s starting lineup?
UCSB’s affable 12-year bench boss offered up a straightforward explanation.
“He battled with Randy for a lot of years, and us stupid coaches finally found a way to get both of them out there (at the same time),” McLaughlin said with a chuckle.
And McGarry has more than proven it was the right move.
After being named the Off the Block National Setter of the Week earlier this week after leading the Gauchos to three straight sweeps in last weekend’s Asics Tournament, McGarry picked up right where he left on on Friday night. He finished with 32 assists in another three-set sweep, this one over No. 10 Purdue Fort Wayne, 25-16, 25-16, 25-21 at Rob Gym.
DeWeese finished with eight kills and hit .471, while senior opposite hitter Keenan Sanders had nine kills and hit a blistering .750. Senior outside hitter Roy McFarland led the way with 12 kills and hit an impressive .474.
UCSB thoroughly dominated a solid opponent from the Midwest, finishing with an eye-popping .514 hitting percentage. According to McLaughlin, it all started with McGarry.
“He’s the quarterback. He runs the show,” McLaughlin said. “He’s why we’re hitting at that clip, no doubt about it. Some of it’s the passing, but most of it is Casey.
“Casey is a great setter, one of the best in the country, no doubt about it.”
McGarry admitted that it wasn’t easy sitting on the bench at different times during his first three years with the Gauchos.
“It’s always frustrating (not playing), you always want to be out there,” McGarry said. “When you’re not out there, you’ve got to be on the bench supporting your teammates and doing all you can.”
McGarry, like the rest of his teammates, were phenomenal from the service line.
The Gauchos finished with an .838 serve percentage after making only 12 service errors in 74 attempts.
McGarry, McFarland, Sanders and DeWeese each had an ace.
“That’s a really good serving percentage that we had,” McLaughlin said. “Aces to errors was a really good ratio for us tonight. If we can serve like that, we can put any team in trouble.”
DeWeese’s lone ace in the match gave UCSB a 4-1 lead in the opening set. The Gauchos served at an .840 clip in the first and never looked back in the opening set after DeWeese’s ace.
“I think it really helps getting off to a good start, especially from the service line,” McLaughlin said. “If you can get them uncomfortable right out of the gate, the passers, they’re thinking about it the rest of the night. They never really get to settle in if you jump on them right out of the gate. It was definitely our best serving (match) of the season so far.”
UCSB hit a bump in the road in the second set, falling behind, 8-5.
But the Gauchos went on a 7-1 run after McLaughlin called timeout, and were never challenged again in the set. UCSB, after trailing by three, closed the second on a 20-8 run. The Gauchos have won 12 straight sets to open the season. Friday’s thumping of Purdue Fort Wayne even took McLaughlin a little by surprise.
“I was impressed at how our guys took a game plan all week and executed it,” he said. “We knew these guys were really good, they took care of Northridge (in three sets) the other night. “They have a lot of foreign guys with experience, so we knew we had to take care of what we thought they would do. Our guys did it.”
UCSB hosts Ball State tonight at 7 p.m. at Rob Gym.