Waves Crash Gauchos’ Bid for Redemption

Matt Ujkic (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Matt Ujkic (Photo by Tony Mastres)

MALIBU, Calif. – After No. 5 Pepperdine snared a stunning reverse sweep over No. 10 UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday, the Gauchos traveled to Malibu seeking redemption on Friday night but fell to the Waves 3-1 (25-17, 28-30, 25-18, 25-23) inside the Firestone Fieldhouse.

UCSB (3-2) has had success at Pepperdine in recent years, winning four of the past five matchups in Malibu, but the Waves (4-0) came out hot and never looked back.

Pepperdine hit a scorching .700 with 15 kills and just one error on 20 attacks in the first set while the Gauchos were held to a .150 percentage (8-5-20). Despite a quick 4-1 lead from Santa Barbara, the Waves were able to rally and break off a 6-1 run to extend its lead to 17-11 midway through the set to cruise to a 25-17 opening victory.

The second frame came down to extra points as UCSB and Pepperdine went back-and-forth in a thrilling set. Freshman Brandon Hicks was crucial down the stretch for the Gauchos, converting three straight kills for points 24 through 26 to keep UCSB with game point. On its sixth attempt at set point, Corey Chavers hit it where the defense wasn't and evened the match 1-1 after a 30-28 set victory.

Despite strong play from the Gauchos in the third set, hitting .346 (10-1-26), the Waves were slightly better with a .419 (17-4-31) percentage to stave off UCSB, 25-18, for a 2-1 lead.

Behind a stellar fourth set from Matt Ujkic, Santa Barbara looked to force yet another five-set match with the Waves and held a 23-22 lead late after a kill from Randy DeWeese. Pepperdine, however, regrouped and put three straight points together, capped off by a big block to end the match.

For the night, Pepperdine hit a red-hot .410 (62-14-117) with stout defense to the tune of 40 digs and 15 blocks. UCSB finished with a .276 (49-17-116) hitting percentage and 30 digs.

Hayden Boehle tallied one-third of those digs with 10, his fourth double-digit digs game of the season, while Ujkic led the offense with 14 kills. Hicks also reached double-figures with 10 kills and finished with a team-high five total blocks. DeWeese handled the majority of the setting duties on the night and recorded 34 assists.

Pepperdine was led by its three-headed monster of David Wieczorek (15 kills), Kaleb Denmark (14 kills) and Michael Wexter (13 kills).

The Gauchos continue their road trip when they take on UCLA next Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion on PAC-12 Network.