MVB: Gauchos make big plays in win over Long Beach

LONG BEACH — UCSB pushed passed a well-matched Long Beach State squad in five tight sets (16-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 15-12) in a key MPSF men’s volleyball match on Thursday night.

Led by career numbers offensively by Matt Hanley’s 21 kills, Jonah Seif’s 61 assists and Chad Kingi’s 24 digs, UCSB improves to 15-7, 14-7 MPSF. Seif also dominated at the net by setting a career-best in solo blocks (3).

With the win, the Gauchos hold the tiebreaker over Long Beach in the standings, critical for the team’s playoff aspirations in the event of a tie after the final three matches of the season. A top-four finish in the MPSF gives UCSB the opportunity to host a first-round playoff match. UCSB’s magic number is now down to two, by any combination of wins or Hawai’i losses.

Coming off a slow start in the first set, the Gauchos rebounded in the second set with 14 kills and six team blocks. In the second set alone, Seif had two of his three solo blocks and three of his total four block assists for the match. Seif, Hanley, and Jake Staahl each assisted in four blocks while Ryan Thompson assisted in five.

The defensive display in the second set was crucial to the Gauchos’ rally from being down by five points to tying the match at 19. Hanley then finished off the set with two back-to-back kills.

Chad Kingi continued the defensive display, laying out for his career-best 24 digs, besting his previous best of 19 digs in a hard-fought loss against Pepperdine at home.

UCSB turned up the offensive intensity with 15 kills in the third set—despite losing the set—and 19 kills in the fourth set at .400 clip as a team. Seif set the offense up for success with his career high 61 assists. He has now put up at least 50 assists in four of the past five games.

Hanley pounded 21 kills to power the offensive machine that also witnessed Evan Licht and Weston Nielsen slam double-digit kills (17 and 15, respectively). Hanley’s performance marks the third match of the season with at least 20 kills.

The critical break in the match came in the decisive fifth set. With the match tied at nine, a Hanley-Staahl block, following a Long Beach attack error, gave the Gauchos the edge to finish off the match with a win. Thompson captured the match win with a definitive solo block.

The Gauchos finish off their road trip at Northridge on Saturday before returning home for matches against Cal Baptist and BYU, the only team to capture a playoff position to this point in the season.