MVB: Irvine takes down Gauchos in five

The ninth-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos took a hard hit on Wednesday night in Rob Gym, losing to UC Irvine in five games. However, it was not for lack of effort; standouts Jacob Delson, Jake Staahl, and Kevin Donohue led the team offense, as Delson and Donohue picked up 11 and 17 hits respectively, while Staahl went 6 for 11 in kills, put up five block assists, and produced a .364 clip.

Set scores were 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 15-6.

The Anteaters (23-4, 17-3), who hit .341 for the whole match and .625 in the fifth game, saw an impressive performance from Zack La Cavera (22 kills and a .442 clip), Andrew Benz (.438 clip), and Jason Agopian (.533). UCI setter Roberto Frazzoni contributed 37 assists, and UCSB setter Jonah Seif picked up 36 himself. Though defeated, the Gauchos still have a chance of clinching a playoff spot, a spot that relies on their win over UCSD on Friday and a Stanford loss to top-ranked Hawaii.

UCSB (14-9, 10-9) started the night with momentum, taking the first game 25-20. A kill from Jacob Delson, his second of the night, gave the Gauchos their first lead at 11-10. This lead lasted them the rest of the game, and was solidified with serving aces from Seif, Delson, and outside hitter Weston Nielsen—whose ace gave them the win. Seif also exhibited a dominant defense with his six digs, while Donohue led the Gaucho offense with four kills, For UC Irvine, Benz went 4 for 5 in kills and La Cavera contributed four of his own.

The second game proved to be more of an uphill battle, resulting in a 25-23 loss. This was partly due to La Cavera’s seven kills, and the Anteaters’ .423 clip as a team. UCSB led the match at first but quickly lost their lead, giving UCI the drive they needed to take it and run with it. Seif showed a consistent defense with four digs, which although paired with Donohue’s four kills, wasn’t enough for the energy UC Irvine was radiating.

The third set did not fare much better as the Anteaters dominated once again and took the win at 25-22. Taking it all the way to 1-6 before the Gauchos started to show some strength, La Cavera and Agopian continued to show strong performances with four and three kills respectively.

UCSB’s found a last shot of adrenaline in the fourth game with a score of 25-21. Key offensive players Nielsen and Ryan Hardy were back in action, attacking the Anteaters with five and four kills (of the six swings Hardy took). This was the Gauchos’ strongest offensive game as the team produced a .455 clip—Delson was 2-2, and Staahl was 2-3. Donohue slid in a kill that confirmed the win, a kill that was preceded by a service ace from Hardy.

UC Irvine took their final game of the night at 15-6, leaving UC Santa Barbara with their weakest offense of the night (regardless of Donohue’s four kills). While UCI swung for a . 625 clip, their highest of the night, UCSB produced -.128. Michael Saeta served from 5-11 to 6-14 for the Anteaters, while Delson brought them to the finish line with a service error.

UC Santa Barbara looks to redeem themselves this Friday night against UC San Diego, their final home match of the season. The Gauchos’ four seniors, Weston Nielsen, Jake Staahl, Kevin Donohue, and Vaun Lennon will be honored in a pregame ceremony at 7:00 p.m.