LA JOLLA, Calif. - Matt Hanley’s match-high 20 kills propelled sixth-ranked UC Santa Barbara to a 3-0 victory over UC San Diego in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men’s volleyball match Saturday night at RIMAC Arena. Scores were 25-20, 25-16, 25-18.
UCSD (1-16, 0-15 MPSF) was coming off of its first win of 2014, a 3-2 home decision over non-conference opponent Grand Canyon Friday. UC Santa Barbara (10-5, 9-5 MPSF) had begun the night in a two-way tie for fifth place in the league standings. The Tritons took each of the previous two meetings in La Jolla, both in straight sets.
Hanley was largely unstoppable for the Gauchos on the night, committing just one error on 26 swings to notch his 20 kills on .731 hitting. He added three service aces, four digs and one assist. UCSB had 10 aces on the night, led by Evan Licht’s four.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Eric Barber had a team-high eight kills for UCSD to go along with four digs, two block assists and an ace. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Mathew Schnitzer added seven kills without an error on nine attempts, a rate of .778. Senior opposite Mike Brunsting (Poway/Francis Parker School) finished with six kills, three assists, two digs and a block. Junior setter Garrett Dempsey contributed 23 assists and five digs.
Redshirt freshman libero Tanner Howard paced the Tritons in digs for the second straight night, finding his way to six against UCSB. Senior middle blocker Fred Stahl produced a team-high four total blocks and a couple of kills.
UCSB started fast and went up 7-1 in the opening frame, the lone Triton point coming from a Gaucho service error, to trigger the contest’s first timeout. Down 11-4, UCSD fought back to within three at 11-8 with four straight points, including a triple block by Barber, Brunsting and Stahl, and kills by Brunsting and Stahl. A thunderous combo block by Stahl and Kirill Rudenko later made it 12-10 in favor of the visitors, who called for time moments later nursing just a one-point edge. UCSD got successive points from Barber on a kill and an ace for 23-19, before UCSB took it.
The second game was more of the same as the Tritons suddenly found themselves down 7-0 and chasing the action for the remainder. The run featured two Hanley kills, two Licht aces, and was punctuated by three straight stuff blocks by the Gauchos, with junior middle Jake Staahl involved in all three.
UCSD held its first and only leads of the night in the third set at 1-0 and 2-0 on the heels of a Brunsting kill and an emphatic solo block by Stahl, on, of all people, Staahl. The Gauchos earned the next three points, however. Rudenko’s strong kill later tied it at 12-12, but after a seventh and final tie score of 13-13, a 3-0 stretch through a Triton service error and two Hanley aces, gave UCSB the cushion it needed to go on and complete the sweep. Hanley’s season-best 20th kill came on match point.
UCSD next completes its home-and-home series with the Gauchos in Santa Barbara on Friday, March 7, at 7 p.m.