MVB: UCLA hands Gauchos their first MPSF defeat

LOS ANGELES – Eighth-ranked UCSB was unable to overcome a hot start by No. 3 UCLA, and suffered its first loss of the season with a three-game sweep at Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday night.

The set scores for the match were 25-12, 25-22, 29-27.

Senior outside hitter Matt Hanley was at the forefront of the UCSB (3-1, 2-1 MPSF) offense, putting up a team-high nine kills and swinging a respectable .348, while serving one of the team’s five aces on the night. Hanley, a transfer from UCLA, was facing his former team for the first time in a Gauchos uniform.

UCLA (6-1, 2-1) came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, taking 10 of the first 15 points to start the match. That early lead proved insurmountable after a 6-0 run essentially clinched the set at 22-10.

The Gauchos went tit-for-tat with the Bruins in the second set, fighting back and taking the lead at 19-18 late in the game. The momentum would swing in favor of the Bruins after that point as they received kills from three different players to push the score to 21-19.

Behind a Hanley service run, the Gauchos stormed out to a 5-1 lead to start out the third set. Another hot streak capped off by a Jake Staahl service ace put UCSB up 15-8 and ignited hopes of a comeback. However, UCLA responded with a 6-2 run of its own to reduce the Gauchos’ lead to just three points.

The Bruins’ 7-foot Robert Page, who finished with a match-high 15 kills, smashed home a kill to knot the score at 22-22. From there, the two teams traded points until the score was knotted at 27-all. Back-to-back UCSB errors would clinch the match for UCLA.

Senior libero Chad Kingi was busy on Tuesday night, finishing with a team-best seven digs. His brother, MPSF Player of the Week nominee Austin Kingi, had seven kills and a .250 hitting percentage. Senior opposite Evan Licht led UCSB at the net with three blocks.

The Gauchos continued their strong serving performance, as they have now finished with at least five aces in every match this season, while their 10 errors were the fewest they have recorded in a single match so far this year.

Page was assisted on Tuesday night by Gonzalo Quiroga, who also finished in double-digits with 11 kills. The Bruins hit .337 as a team and did a nice job on defense, outdigging the Gauchos 37-23.

UCSB returns to Rob Gym this Saturday night to host UC Irvine, the reigning national champions. First serve is set for 7 p.m.