Despite losing two straight matches to BYU, and falling behind two sets to none in Saturday night’s match, the Gauchos were able to pull off a five-set comeback in what is certainly their most impressive win of the season.
Austin Kingi, playing in just his second career match, displayed what made him an attractive recruit in the first place, leading all players with 18 kills- 11 more than he had in his debut on Friday night. Austin also led his team in digs with 14, recording his first career double-double.
With the upset win, the Gauchos improve to 5-9 overall. Sitting with a 3-7 record in conference play, the win pushed them into a three-way tie with Hawai’i and Cal State Northridge for eighth place, the final playoff eligible spot, just one match away from the halfway mark of the conference schedule.
BYU snapped a five-match winning streak with the loss, falling to 11-4 overall and 7-3 in the MPSF. It was the second time in the last three matches between the two teams in Provo that UCSB was able to pull of an upset.
As a team, the Gauchos hit. 284, their highest since hitting .287 against Cal State Northridge on Jan 6. The UCSB attack was highlighted by clips of .400 from Austin Kingi and a team-high .419 from freshman outside hitter Kevin Donohue. Donohue had a monster night of his own- his aforementioned hitting percentage was accompanied by 16 kills and a match-high eight blocks, two of which came solo.
Junior outside hitter Miles Evans picked up 15 kills despite being held under a .100 hitting percentage for the second straight night. Evans also had 13 digs, giving him his second double-double of the year. Saturday night’s match was the first time this season that multiple Gauchos have recorded a double-double on the same night.
In addition to their strong attacking, improved blocking was a key factor in the UCSB win. As a team, the Gauchos recorded 12.5 blocks, their most since Feb. 3 against Pepperdine, when they tallied a season-high 15.5. BYU was held to a team hitting percentage of .132 or lower in each of the final three sets. Donohue’s eight blocks were followed by sophomore middle blocker Ryan Thompson’s five block assists and Austin Kingi’s four blocks (two solo, two assists).
Sophomore libero Chad Kingi, like his brother, was strong in the passing game, picking up 11 digs. Chad has recorded 11 or more digs in four straight matches, and has recorded seven or more in ten straight. Sophomore setter Bryce Miller did a more than admirable job in relief of Oliver Deutschman, coming on in the second set and finishing with 48 assists, which ties Deutschman for the single-game high this season.
The Gauchos return to California next week for a pair of matches. On Wednesday night, they will finish their season series with the Matadors away at Cal State Northridge. They then return to Rob Gym on Friday night to play host to Long Beach State. That match will be the first of five straight home matches for the Gauchos.