MVB: Waves knock Gauchos out in MPSF playoffs

MALIBU – Despite a fifth consecutive double-double from junior setter Jonah Seif, sixth-seeded and ninth-ranked UC Santa Barbara dropped a 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-18) decision to third seed Pepperdine on Saturday night at the Firestone Fieldhouse in the first round of the MPSF Tournament.

The match was much closer than the score may have indicated, as there were 31 ties and nine lead changes throughout the contest. The Gauchos were looking to recreate the level of play they exhibited last Wednesday, as they handed the Waves their first home loss of the season, ending a 20-match win streak for Pepperdine at Firestone in the process.

With the loss, UCSB ends the season with a 17-10 overall record. Pepperdine (23-5) moves onto the MPSF Semifinals at UC Irvine, with their next opponent to be determined. This was the first time in the past six head-to-head matches between UCSB and Pepperdine that the road team lost.

Seif had 29 assists and 10 digs at the center of the UCSB offense. Redshirt senior Weston Nielsen was the only Gaucho to accrue more than 10 kills, as he finished with a team-high 11. Fellow hitters Jacob Delson and Kevin Donohue combined for 13 kills. The Gauchos hit .120 on the night as a team.

In the middle, senior Jake Staahl had a team-high three blocks while chipping in four kills, and Ryan Hardy finished with three kills and a pair of block assists.

Scott Rhein and Parker Kalmbach had 12 kills apiece to lead the Waves attack, while Josh Taylor had seven kills and a match-high 15 digs. With nine digs, Rhein finished just one scoop short of the double-double.

In contrast to last week’s match, Pepperdine came out hot in Saturday night’s affair, creating separation early in the match on three consecutive UCSB errors (one serving, two attacking) to make it 6-3. They extended that lead with a 3-0 run capped off by a Mitch Penning-Parker Kalmback double block to bring the score to 12-6. The Gauchos ultimately were able to bring it within three at 21-18, as a Staahl-Donohue double block highlighted a 4-1 run that also featured kills from Delson and Donohue. However, Pepperdine recovered momentum in time to take it 25-21. Scott Rhein had five kills in the frame for the Waves.

The two teams went tit-for-tat in set number two, with neither team leading by more than two at any point. At 15-15, a Kalmbach kill and a Taylor solo block gave the Waves their first multi-point lead of the game, inducing a timeout from UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. Out of the break, back-to-back Donohue kills leveled the score again, with the Gauchos re-taking the lead at 21-20 when Matt Tarantino’s quick hit didn’t clear the net. However, things quickly swung back in Pepperdine’s favor, as a Kalmbach kill from the right side set up a Penning-Matt West block to give them set point at 24-22. Rhein put away a kill off a free ball to clinch the game and put the Waves up 2-0. Nielsen had six kills on just nine swings in the game for UCSB, while Kalmbach answered with six of his own for Pepperdine.

The third and final set was similarly tight, as the two teams found themselves tied at 13-13. From there, Pepperdine ripped off a 9-3 run – featuring a pair of blocks and two kills from Kalmbach – to take a commanding 22-16 lead.