Wilcox Goes for Career-High 20 in Comeback Win for No. 3 Gauchos

Ryan Wilcox (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Ryan Wilcox (Photo by Jeff Liang)

COUMBUS, Ohio.—The No. 3 Gauchos started off slow on the second day of a back-to-back as the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team found itself down 2-0 to No. 9 Penn State Saturday afternoon. With their backs against the wall, head coach Rick McLaughlin and his team were able to emerge from the locker room and take the final three sets and earn their second win of the weekend at Covelli Center. It was just the second five set match for the Gauchos, and their first win claiming it 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-9.

It was a career night for sophomore outside hitter Ryan Wilcox who tallied 20 kills on just 41 swings and added four block assists.

The Gauchos are now on a two-match win streak improving to 8-2 on the year while Penn State fell to 4-6.

The Nittany Lions came our firing with an impressive .458 hitting percentage that led them to a first set victory at 25-19, despite UCSB putting up a strong hitting line at .360. Both team's defenses showed up in the second frame with each squad hitting under .150, but again Penn State found a way to close out on top thanks to a pair of aces that gave them the 25-23 win.

Santa Barbara emerged from the second set break anew taking advantage of the third frame early with a 10-3 run on big plays from Wilcox and senior outside hitter Randy DeWeese, and pushed the lead out to as much as 10. The Nittany Lions had no answer for the Gaucho offense that posted a .583 hitting percentage in the set to take it 25-15.

The defense came alive for UCSB in the fourth as it held its opponent to a dismal .162 hitting and forced four hitting errors in the final points. A match that once favored Penn State was now in the grasp of the Gauchos who stormed back from 2-0 to force a fifth and final set with a 25-19 fourth frame.

Penn State awoke in the decider taking a 4-0 lead to start and force a timeout from McLaughlin, but it would prove to be a good call by the coach as his team came out to win the next eight straight points. Wilcox, DeWeese and Keenan Sanders gave their team the separation it needed combing for seven kills and an ace in the final stretch. Santa Barbara would complete the comeback and take the set 15-9.

DeWeese (15) and Sanders (10) joined Wilcox (20) in double digit kills and Sanders was once again the face of efficiency posting a .667 hitting percentage. Senior libero Grady Yould kept the Nittany Lions at bay all afternoon from the service lines adding a team-high four aces.

Senior setter Casey McGarry again showed why he leads the nation in assists adding another 44 to his impressive season and paced the Gauchos with a season-high 20 digs.

UCSB will wrap up its six-match road stint this Wednesday at UCLA. First serve is set for 7:00 p.m. in Los Angeles.