MVB: Davis roars in UCSB’s third straight win

Knowing it was his last career game at Rob Gym, senior middle blocker Dylan Davis summoned a little extra offensive flair on Wednesday night, leading the No. 11 Gauchos to a 3-1 victory over the No. 8 Cal State Northridge Matadors by hitting a season-best .867 (13 kills on 15 swings) and posting 10 blocks for the third time this season.

Game scores for the match went 25-22, 25-21, 24-26, 25-15.

“I knew it was going to be my last game here at Rob,” said Davis. “I’ve played here for four years, so I definitely had a little extra energy tonight on the floor.”

Davis recorded a kill on each of his first 10 swings, reaching into the third set. However, his 11th attack was dug up by the Matadors to snuff out his chance at a perfect night. To add insult to injury, the Matadors stormed back from an 8-1 deficit in the third game after already being down two sets to none to get back into the game.”

“Earlier in the year, that comeback in the third set would have killed us,” said UCSB freshman setter Jonah Seif. “It goes to show the growth of our team by how well we responded in the fourth.”

After blowing that early lead in the third, the Gauchos stormed out in the fourth frame by claiming the first six points en route to a 10-2 run. Junior opposite Evan Licht was at the service line for the majority of that rally, causing multitudes of problems for CSUN’s back row. Licht matched his career high for the second time in three games by picking up three aces on the night. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native has recorded 11 aces in his last six games after only having three over his first 13 appearances.

Up 11-4 in the fourth, another 4-0 rally – capped by a booming kill from Miles Evans – put the game out of reach for the Gauchos, who improved to 10-12 overall with an 8-10 MPSF mark after winning their third straight match. Cal State Northridge fell to 10-7, 8-7 with the loss.

“We know we’re playing well right now,” said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. “But we’re taking this one game at a time and focusing on the little things that make us successful.”

Despite Davis’s standout night, a number of other Gauchos had impressive performances as well. Licht continued his all-around dominance with a match-high 15 kills and 12 digs, giving him his first career double-double. Evans chipped in 14 kills of his own, the second-most he has recorded this season. Not to be outdone, junior libero Chad Kingi had a career-high 16 digs in the victory, leading the Gauchos defense to a season-best 61 team scoops despite playing just four games.

Freshman setter Jonah Seif continued his strong play with a 51 assist performance, his fifth 50+ assist outing of the season. He distributed the ball remarkably evenly – Licht, the most set-to hitter, had 39 swings, while Austin Kingi, the least set-to hitter, had 32. Similarly, Davis’s 15 swings were just above fellow middle Jake Staahl’s 12 attempts.

Early on, it looked like the match would be dominated by middle blockers, as the two teams combined for 15 blocks over the first two games. However, after the second set, attacking lanes began to open up and both offenses took advantage. The Matadors hit for their highest clip in the third game at .269, while the Gauchos exploded for a .515 hitting percentage in the decisive fourth game.

CSUN’s John Baker led the Matador offense, picking up a team best 13 kills on 48 swings.

UCSB will look to remain hot as they take a break from MPSF action over the next couple of weeks. Next up for the Gauchos are the Harvard Crimson, who will visit the Thunderdome on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.