The No. 5 UCSB men’s volleyball team put up a bigger fight in Saturday’s rematch at No. 4 Hawaii, but couldn’t close out a 2-1 lead, falling 19-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-18, 15-10.
The Gauchos are now 16-8 overall and 5-4 in Big West play. The Rainbow Warriors improve to 20-5 overall, 5-3 conference.
It was a career all-around night for opposite Haotian Xia, who totaled 28 points, four more than any other Gaucho has had in any match this season. The junior led all players tying a personal-best with 21 kills on an incredibly efficient .447 hitting percentage. He also served up a Gaucho season-high six aces – tripling his previous career-best – while totaling two blocks for the fifth straight match.
Junior outside hitter Ryan Wilcox finished with 15 kills (.178) for the second straight night, had two aces of his own, and recorded his second double-double of the year with 10 digs.
As a team, the Gauchos had a 9-7 edge in aces, their most against a ranked opponent this year. However, their four team blocks were tied for their second-fewest of the year as Hawaii hit .387 as a team.
Sophomore outside hitter Dayne Chalmers set a new career-high with a team-leading 14 digs, also totaling 13 kills (.333) for his first ever double-double.
For the first time this year, the Gauchos had three players with a double-double, the last being sophomore setter Patrick Paragas who tied his personal-high of 54 assists to go with 11 digs.
Middle blockers Donovan Todorov and Brandon Hicks were active on both sides of the ball as usual, posting eight kills and two blocks apiece.
After narrowly dropping the last two sets in Friday’s sweep, the Gauchos started strong and ended the opening set on a 8-3 run to take the early lead.
UCSB’s top hitters came out on fire, as Wilcox went for six kills (.455) and Xia had five (.625). The Gauchos outhit Hawaii .500 to .312.
Hawaii responded the way it needed to in set two, but couldn’t pull away. The Gauchos kept it within striking distance and eventually tied it at 19-19 as Wilcox set up Xia for a game-tying kill.
Unfortunately for UCSB, the Bows closed the set on a 6-1 run as Dimitrios Mouchlias put it away with an ace.
Xia hit at a .500 clip for the second straight game with six kills, but Santa Barbara’s hitting was held to .219 as Hawaii’s defense started making plays.
Xia continued to dominate in set three, going a blistering 7-for-8 (.875) on his attacks as he helped UCSB overcome an early three-point deficit.
The Gauchos took their largest lead of the night 21-17 on a Xia kill. Todorov put one away to give the Gauchos a 23-20 advantage, but Hawaii scored three straight to tie it 23-23.
UCSB couldn’t put away its first set point opportunity, but would take a 2-1 lead on a game-sealing block by Hicks and Xia.
The fourth set was extremely close, with neither team taking more than a two-point lead until late on. After going down 12-10 on a Wilcox putaway, the Bows turned it on and would take a 19-15 lead.
The Rainbow Warriors went on to win the set by the largest margin of the night on a Gaucho service error.
Kills by Wilcox and Hicks gave USCB two separate two-point leads early on in the decisive fifth set. However, Hawaii would hold UCSB to a .000 hitting percentage as it pulled away in the most crucial part of the set.
The Bows ended the match on a 5-1 run, with Mouchlias scoring the final kill to end the night.
The Gauchos have two more regular season contests ahead of them, both on the road. They will face Concordia (Calif.) on Friday, Apr. 15 before closing the regular season out at UC San Diego the following night.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.