The No. 5 UCSB men’s volleyball team kept on rolling Friday night at CSUN, downing the Matadors in three sets for the second straight night, 25-20, 25-17, 25-23.
The Gauchos (14-4, 3-0) have yet to drop a set in March, winning all 12 sets they have played. They are now out to their first ever 3-0 start to Big West play and have made it two straight years with a 9-match win streak.
For the fifth straight time, junior outside hitter Ryan Wilcox led UCSB in kills (18). He hit above .600 for the second straight match, setting a new career-high in kills per set (6.0). It was the fourth time in his four-year Gaucho career that he has averaged at least five kills per set.
Junior opposite Haotian Xia went for 11 kills, registering first double-digit since January. He also added two aces and two blocks.
Speaking of blocks – a category in which UCSB ranks third nationally – the Gauchos had another big night, led by middle blocker Donovan Todorov’s five. Outside hitter Dayne Chalmers finished with four, while Brandon Hicks and Patrick Paragas went for two apiece.
Chalmers also had a strong night at the service line, equaling Xia for match-high honors with two aces.
Santa Barbara trailed 14-13 in the first set, but would dominate the rest of the way. Three straight blocks involving different combinations of Gauchos started a 5-1 run, capped by a Xia ace to go up 23-18.
Wilcox put away seven of his 18 kills in the opening game including the final point. UCSB hit at a .577 clip as a team.
The Gauchos got out to a 4-1 lead in set two and never looked back. Back-to-back aces from Chalmers gave them an early 12-5 advantage.
UCSB’s lead grew as large as nine points. Hicks set up Paragas for a kill to make it 22-13 and the set eventually ended on a CSUN service error.
Neither team led by more than two points in the closest set of the night. Wilcox saved his best for last, posting a massive eight-kill total (.727) to help close things out.
His final kill put the Gauchos up 24-23 and Todorov and Xia combined for the match-sealing block on the following point.
UCSB won’t play again until heading south to face No. 2 Long Beach State on Friday, Mar. 25. The two teams will have a rematch the following night at Rob Gym. Both matches are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. start times.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.