MVB: Gauchos hand No. 3 Pepperdine first home loss

MALIBU – All three of No. 9 UC Santa Barbara’s hitters recorded a dozen kills and junior setter Jonah Seif picked up his fifth double-double in the past seven matches as the Gauchos upset No. 3 Pepperdine by a score of 3-1 (25-15, 15-25, 26-24, 25-22) on Wednesday night at the Firestone Fieldhouse.

It was the first loss all year for the Waves (22-5, 17-5) on their homecourt, while the Gauchos (16-9, 12-9) clinched no worse than the sixth seed in the upcoming MPSF Tournament with the win.

UCSB can ascend to the number five spot with a win on Saturday night coupled with one BYU loss (the Cougars play top-ranked Hawai’i twice this week). The Gauchos’ still maintain hope of a first round hosting appointment, which would require another UCSB win and a pair of USC losses this week.

Seif had another spectacular outing to lead the Gauchos, putting up 43 assists in just four games while recording 12 digs, his third consecutive match in double-digit dig figures.

The 2014 AVCA All-American spread the ball out about as evenly as possible, as hitters Kevin Donohue, Jacob Delson, and Weston Nielsen all had exactly 12 kills. The middles had symmetrical contributions as well, with Jake Staahl and Ryan Hardy both recording seven kills.

The Gauchos came out hot from the very start against Pepperdine, who had won all 10 of their previous home contests this season.

A Delson kill on the first point of the match sparked a 7-2 run for the Gauchos which was finished with a Staahl service ace, one of seven on the night for the squad. Pepperdine fought tough to keep the deficit at just five, but another Delson kill late in the game made it 19-13 and turned the tide decisively for UCSB, who won the final four points of the game, with a Donohue ace clinching it.

The home team answered back with a dominant performance in game two, winning nine of 10 points at one juncture en route to a 25-15 win.

After a pair of blowouts, the third set was actually a close one, requiring extra points for the Gauchos to come out on top. At 24-23, Seif delivered an errant serve to spoil UCSB’s first set point, but back-to-back kills from Delson and Hardy immediately thereafter put the Gauchos up two games to one.

A small 3-1 run to open the fourth turned out to be vital for UCSB, as the teams would practically trade points for the majority of the set. That cushion allowed the Gauchos to weather a three-point run from the Waves late in the game, then they recovered to win five of the final seven points of the match. Up 23-22, Seif delivered back-to-back aces to clinch the match for UCSB.

Outside hitter Josh Taylor led the attack for Pepperdine, finishing with a team-high 15 kills. Opposite Parker Kalmbach wasn’t far behind with 14.

UCSB will wrap up its regular season schedule with a nationally-televised clash with Stanford on Saturday evening. The match is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start and can be viewed on the Pac-12 Network.

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