Honolulu, Hawai'i.- Second-seeded UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball knocked off the two-time defending national champions Friday night defeating Long Beach State 3-1 to advance to its first ever Big West Conference Championship. The Gauchos fell behind early but planted their feet in the second set to take a four-set victory 16-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-15.
"You know typically when you get beat like that in the first the game, you don't always come back from that the way we did," head coach Rick McLaughlin said. "And that's a tribute to these guys. They didn't flinch. They didn't feel anything after that first game, and I knew they were locked in."
Wilcox led the team with 16 kills and three aces on a .324 hitting percentage, with Ryan Pecsok pacing the team with a career-high 17 digs. Randy DeWesse added 12 kills of his own and Donovan Todorov led the team with six block assists.
The Gauchos, who were marked as the home team for the contest, came out slow falling behind by as much as nine at 18-9 before giving The Beach its fourth straight set win of the tournament 25-16. Signs of life began to show for the Gauchos, who ended the first game on the better side of a run.
Much like the first set, the second set saw few lead changes as the Gauchos got ahead early and stretched their lead to as much as eight at 22-14. UCSB held Long Beach to a match-low .029 hitting percentage on its way to icing the overall match with a dominant 25-17 second-set win.
"You know in the first set they hopped on us quick," Wilcox said. "So we stayed calm and talked about it, and what it came down to was staying disciplined, and what we got out of it was a bunch of touches and digs."
After allowing The Beach to hit .500 in the first set of the night, the Gauchos did not let LBSU get over a .282 in the final three games. Long Beach was held to a .281 mark in the third before being held to a dismal .129 in the last game of the night. Meanwhile UCSB hit a match-best .519 with 15 kills in the third set, before posting 10 more in the last game of the contest.
UCSB will face either #1 Hawai'I or #4 UC San Diego in tomorrow's championship.
Article courtesy of UCSB Athletics