UC Santa Barbara continues late-season surge, dispatches Stanford in three sets
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- No. 14 UC Santa Barbara cruised to victory against No. 4 Stanford in three sets (25-18, 25-19, 25-19) on Friday, avenging an earlier loss against the Cardinal on the road. Stanford (12-7) lacked an answer for UCSB's dominant services while the Gauchos (8-12, 6-10) were able to maintain a strong defensive presence to win for the third time in the past four games.
UCSB's strong net presence and service game started and established control of the match overall early in the first set. At the net, the team had seven total blocks and allowed only one Cardinal player to have a hitting percentage greater than .000. Leading the defense was sophomore middle blocker Jake Staahl with a hand in three blocks out of his four overall, averaging 1.33 blocks per set. Staahl's block-per-set average on the season previously was 1.24.
Services from behind the line were equally formidable. Junior middle blocker Evan Licht, with Staahl, delivered four aces against Stanford's defense with Dylan Davis slamming an additional four kills. Licht's two kills came back to back as part of a strong UCSB finish to the first set, winning five of the last six points.
The second set saw a reversal, as the Cardinal took over the early net presence with four blocks. The Gauchos struggled to carry over their late first-set momentum but managed to battle back and forth to pull out the second-set win. Staahl kept his serving rhythm with two more aces that Stanford couldn't answer. Davis and Jonah Seif each exploited the Cardinal defense with a service ace. Seif's ace clinched the tight set.
UCSB re-established dominance in the third set, proving the second set was a fluke. The Gauchos ran away with the match after a UCSB timeout tied with the score tied at 16-16, taking nine of the final 12 points in the set. Staahl padded his block-per-set average with his fourth of the game out of the team's 14 total. Licht and Miles Evans split the remaining two service aces. Evans and Davis both finished with seven kills and a service ace.
Despite the defensive presence, the Cardinal were able to net a strong attack performance from Brian Cook with 15 total kills and Steven Irvin with 11 kills. Ultimately, the lack of service defense and overall game errors in front of nearly 500 people in Rob Gym was too much for Stanford.