In the team’s first official contest, sophomore setter Jonah Seif led a dominant UC Santa Barbara serving performance with a career-high four aces, helping the eighth-ranked Gauchos to a sweep over UC San Diego in Saturday’s third-place match of the 50th annual UCSB Asics Invitational.
Game scores for the match were 25-23, 25-11, 25-16.
UCSB’s third place finish was its best since 2011, when they placed second. The Gauchos advanced to the third-place match by putting together a 3-1 record in Friday’s exhibition pool play round.
Against the Tritons, the serving game established the tone early and often. UCSB recorded 10 service aces as a team, led by Seif and Austin Kingi, who had three of his own.
When not leading to points directly, the Gauchos forced UCSD into bad passes. UCSB’s middles feasted on the compromised setting options, picking up 14 blocks over the three sets. Senior Ryan Thompson and Seif led all players with seven blocks apiece, while Jake Staahl (five blocks) and Evan Licht (four) had strong days at the net as well.
“There were a lot of good things about our performance today and I’m very proud of our team,” said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. “That being said, there are always ways to improve and that’s what we’re going to focus on so early in the season.”
For the match, the Gauchos held the Tritons to a -.013 hitting percentage, which is lower than any opponent in all of 2013.
On the offensive side of the ball, senior outside Matt Hanley – in his official UCSB debut – was the only player to reach double digits with 10 kills. Kingi and Staahl finished not far behind with six kills apiece. Seif did an excellent job distributing the ball evenly, as all three of the Gaucho outsides had between 16 and 21 swings.
UCSB opened the match on a 7-1 run, mostly coming with Kingi at the service line. Hanley highlighted the run with a pair of early kills. The Tritons held that six point deficit before ripping off five straight late in the set to pull within one at 20-19. The Gauchos hung tough as Licht, Kingi, and Staahl picked up kills to maintain the lead, clinching the set on an errant Johl Awerkamp swing. Hanley picked up half of his final kill total in the first frame.
The Gaucho serve really took over at the beginning of the second set, with the team jumping out to a 13-3 lead behind four aces. UCSB didn’t let the Tritons back into the game this time around, as Licht later captured six straight points from the service line to go up 21-8. Back-to-back double blocks at the hands of Seif and Thompson put the Gauchos up 2-0 heading into set three.
Another hot start put UCSB up 11-4 in the decisive set. With no team going on an extended run in the second half of the set, a Staahl and Licht block sealed the win for the Gauchos.
Both Hanley and Thompson made the nine-man All-Tournament Team. Long Beach State’s Dalton Ammerman was named Tournament MVP.
Ammerman’s 49ers were named champions of the UCSB Asics Invitational after defeating Pool A champion Harvard in four sets in Saturday’s final match. Full Saturday results and the All-Tournament Team can be found below.
UCSB gets back into action next week with its final exhibition match, against UC Santa Cruz on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and a non-conference showdown with Concordia on Friday, Jan. 10.
UCSB ASICS INVITATIONAL
Ninth-place match: Pacific def. No. 14 CSUN 3-1
Seventh-place match: No. 5 Stanford def. No. 2 UCLA 3-1
Fifth-place match: IPFW def. No. 15 Cal Baptist 3-1
Third-place match: No. 8 UCSB def. UC San Diego 3-0
Championship match: No. 4 Long Beach def. Harvard 3-1
Kristopher Johnson – Cal Baptist middle blocker
Kyle Rehkemper – Harvard middle blocker
Chris Gibbons – Harvard libero
Andrew Sellan – IPFW opposite hitter
Dalton Ammerman – Long Beach State outside hitter (MVP)
Connor Olbright – Long Beach State setter
Matt Hanley – UCSB outside hitter
Ryan Thompson – UCSB middle blocker
Joel Awerkamp – UCSD opposite hitter