Seniors Randy DeWeese and Roy McFarland each had 21 kills and fourth-seeded UC Santa Barbara held off fifth-seeded Pepperdine 25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26 in Tuesday’s opening-round match of the NCAA men’s volleyball national championship at Columbus, Ohio.
DeWeese, a senior All-American opposite, added a double-double with 13 digs in addition to five blocks for the Gauchos (16-4) winning their 11th straight. UCSB needed four match points to end it, surviving 20 service errors, to advance to Thursday’s semifinal with top-seeded Hawai’i (15-1) at 11 a.m. HST.
Sophomore Ryan Wilcox (Punahou) finished with 11 kills for the Gauchos in the 2 hour and 23 minute contest.
Thursday will be the fourth meeting this season between the two Big West rivals. The Warriors won the first three, all on the road in Isla Vista, Calif., dropping just one set, that coming in the first match.
“I think we’re a better team than when we played them, I think we’d only had two weeks of practice before the season started,” UCSB coach Rick McLaughlin said of facing Hawai’i again. “But they’re a better team as well. We’ll have to up our level.
“We saw what UC San Diego did to Hawai’i with their serving (in upsetting the Warriors in the Big West Tournament). We’ll have to serve aggressively.”
When pointed out that his team had 20 service errors against the Waves, McLaughlin laughed, adding, “We got those out of the way.”
Spencer Wickens put down 14 kills, and Jacob Steele and Austin Wilmot each had 12 for the Waves (13-7), one of two at-large teams in the field. Hawai’i is the other at-large.
Set 4 had 20 ties and six lead changes. Pepperdine appeared ready to force a Set 5 when taking what would be its last lead at 22-21.
The Waves were able to tie it up four times, from 23 through 26 but never could take the lead. DeWeese put down his 21st kill and setter Casey McGarry ended it — and a long rally — with kill on the second touch on the Gauchos’ fourth match point.
The negative about Thursday’s match is that Hawai’i and UCSB have to see each other in the semifinal. The positive is that it guarantees there will be one Big West team in Saturday’s national final.
NOTE: Also on Tuesday, McLaughlin was named the AVCA national coach of the year for a second straight season. He also was named Big West coach of the year last month.