LOS ANGELES — The No. 8-ranked UCSB men’s volleyball team saw its four-match win streak end Wednesday night at No. 7 USC, falling to the Trojans in three sets: 25-20, 25-22, 25-23.
Three of UCSB’s four defeats this season have come to the Trojans. The loss ended a run of four straight Gaucho wins, all coming over ranked opponents, as they were swept for the first time in 2022.
Santa Barbara (5-4) played without its pair of key starters in opposite Haotian Xia and setter Patrick Paragas for the second straight match. Sophomore outside hitter Nick Amoruso led the team in kills (8) for the first time. Sophomore setter Conor Dunn finished with a team-high 28 assists and 13 digs, notching the team’s first double-double of the year.
Also recording season-bests were freshman outside hitter Geste Bianchi with seven kills (.438) and libero Ryan Pecsok with 10 digs.
Junior middle blocker Brandon Hicks registered a team-high 11 points, leading all players with seven blocks to go along with seven kills (.308).
USC won the first set 25-20. The opening game was tightly contested until a late Trojan run. The Gauchos outhit the Trojans .237-to-.233 for the set and held a 15-14 lead.
However, USC went on a 10-4 run from there, getting several blocks at the net and finishing with a 2-0 edge in aces.
The USC took the next set 25-22.
After an 11-11 deadlock, the Trojans (9-2) gained separation by reeling off five straight points, four of which came on Gaucho attacking errors.
USC had its lowest hitting percentage (.146) in set two, as did Santa Barbara (.075). The Trojans won the set 25-22 on a UCSB service error.
The third and final set, which USC won 25-23, would be the closest of the night. Neither team held a lead of more than three points the entire way.
Bianchi entered the match and tallied all seven of his kills in the third game alone. His sixth of the night put UCSB up 20-19.
The Trojans scored three unanswered to take a 22-20 lead off a kill by Sam Kobrine. Simon Gallas later ended things on USC’s second match point with his match-leading 16th kill.
On Wednesday, UCSB tied a season-low with just one ace, which came from sophomore outside hitter Andrew McSweeney.
Sophomore middle blocker Donovan Todorov finished with five kills (.556) and two blocks.
Junior outside hitter Ryan Wilcox, who entered Wednesday having led UCSB in kills for three straight matches, had four kills and a season-high
The Gauchos will be on the road for two more matches this week, traveling to No. 9 Grand Canyon to play at 6 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.