IRVINE — The No. 6 UCSB men’s volleyball team got back to its winning ways on Wednesday night at No. 14 UC Irvine, hitting over .400 as a team for the second time against a ranked opponent this year to beat the Anteaters in four, 25-19, 25-18, 26-26, 25-22.
For the third time this season, three Gauchos reached double-figure kills, led by opposite Haotian Xia’s 16 (.364). It was the second-highest total of the year for the junior.
Also tying his second-best kill total of 2022 was sophomore middle blocker Donovan Todorov with 10 (.500) to go along with a match-high six blocks. Junior hitter Ryan Wilcox finished with 14 kills and had six digs, tying Patrick Paragas and Max Gordon for team-high honors.
The Gauchos’ (15-6, 4-2) efficient team hitting percentage of .409 was thanks in large part to a career-night from sophomore setter Patrick Paragas, who averaged the most assists per set (12.0) of his career for a match-best 48 helpers.
Junior middle blocker Brandon Hicks had a huge all-around night, going 7-for-9 (.778) on kill attempts for one of his most efficient hitting nights ever. He also tied a season-high with three aces and added four digs and three blocks.
FIRST SET, 25-19 UCSB
The Gauchos never trailed in set one, using a 4-0 run bookended by kills from Xia and Wilcox to go up 10-5.
UCSB continued gaining separation before Hicks put away his first ace of the night to make it 21-13, giving the Gauchos their largest lead of the night.
A late 3-0 UCI spurt came to an end on an Anteater service error to end the set.
SECOND SET, 25-18 UCSB
UCI (8-12, 1-4) would take a two-point lead early in set two before the Gauchos turned the tables. They went up 12-9 after back-to-back kills from Wilcox and Todorov capped a 6-2 run.
The Gauchos had their highest hitting percentage (.522) of the night while holding the Anteaters to their lowest (.143).
UCSB also enjoyed a 3-0 block advantage, the last of which came from Hicks and Dayne Chalmers on the final point to give UCSB its largest lead of the set, 25-18.
THIRD SET, 28-26 UCI
Xia and Wilcox combined for nine kills as they did in the opening set. However, UCI’s Francesco Sani had eight of his own as the home side overcame a 20-16 Gaucho lead.
The Anteaters claimed their only game of the night on a block to win it 28-26.
FOURTH SET, 25-22 UCSB
UCSB put things away with a strong defensive set four, holding UCI to a .188 hitting percentage while the offense posted a .353 clip. For the second time in the match, the Gauchos never trailed.
Xia was on fire throughout, tallying six kills on a .500 mark.
Wilcox had four of his five blocks as UCSB recorded more than half of its 11 blocks for the night with six in the final set alone.
Todorov also went for three blocks and three kills. He, Wilcox and Xia combined for the final stuff to clinch the win, 25-22.
The Gauchos and Anteaters will play for a second time this Friday at 7 p.m. at UCSB’s Rob Gym.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.