HONOLULU, Hawai'i. - Second-seeded UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball became Big West Champions for the first time Saturday night, defeating fourth-seeded UC San Diego in four sets 22-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-20. The Gauchos become just the third team to win the tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will be their first appearance in 10 years.
"There are four seniors on this team that were supposed to graduate after last season and we all came back wanting to win it all," senior opposite Randy DeWeese said. "We know that the last stretch of the season is a sprint, so now is the time for us to go on our run, and that's what we think about when we play. We play every single point as hard as we can."
Ryan Wilcox, who had a team-best 28 kills and four aces in the tourney, was named the Big West Championship Most Valuable Player.
The sixth meeting of the season between UCSB and UCSD once again went to the Gauchos who are a perfect 6-0 against the Tritons this season.
"We play UCSD tough every time we see them, but it's always tight," head coach Rick McLaughlin said. "They are a great team and we knew we were in for another battle. Sure enough they took the first game from us but our seniors led the way and didn't get rattled. Beating a team six straight times is not an easy thing to do."
Neither team hit a high percentage, but after a first set loss the Gauchos managed to quiet the Triton offense holding it to a .118 hitting percentage in set two and a .059 mark in set three.
The second game favored the Tritons with the Gauchos falling behind by as much as five at 18-13, but with their backs against the wall the veteran Gauchos planted their feet and went on a run. UCSD held a 24-23 set point, but UCSB managed to force extra points and took nine of the final 12 plays to take the set 27-25 and even the match.
UCSB was outhit in the third set but capitalized on an exhausted UCSD team that had seven service errors. Tied at 10-10, the Gauchos went on a 9-5 run through the middle points and never looked back capping off the set with a pair of kills by DeWeese and Wilcox to take the lead with a 25-21 tie-breaking set win.
In its 13th set in three days, UC San Diego was on its last leg and could not keep up with UC Santa Barbara, which was on a mission that was set at the beginning of the 2020 season. The two teams traded punches, but another handful of Triton miscues gave the Gauchos the momentum they needed to take a late lead, as the champs finished off the tourney on 8-3 run to take set four 25-20.
The Gauchos will find out their seeding and first-round opponent in tomorrow morning's selection show. They will ride a 10-match win streak into the NCAA Tournament.
"It's good to finally be back in the NCAA tournament," McLaughlin said. "We have been working at it for a long time. This team was on its way there last year before we got stopped, but they came back so credit to these guys."
Article is courtesy of UCSB Athletics.