PHOENIX — For the second straight night, the No. 8 UCSB men’s volleyball team downed No. 9 Grand Canyon in five sets Saturday, as libero Ryan Pecsok (24 digs), setter Patrick Paragas (54 assists) and outside hitter Nick Amoruso (21 kills) all had career nights: 21-25, 25-12, 25-23 , 20-25, 15-12.
With their sixth win in seven matches, the Gauchos improved to 7-4 overall, dropping the Antelopes to 6-5.
A brilliant defensive performance from Pecsok saw him reach new heights in the dig department in consecutive matches, as he topped Friday’s 18-dig outing with 24 (4.8 D/Set) on Saturday. The sophomore now has three straight double-digit efforts after having none in the first eight matches of the year.
Paragas (10.8 A/S) and Amoruso (4.2 K/S) were in sync all night. Paragas crossed the 50-assist mark for the first time while adding six digs, an ace and a block. Amoruso, who has seen his first real playing time in the month of February, hit at a season-high .302 clip while racking up 17 digs to notch the Gauchos’ first double-double of the season.
As usual, juniors Ryan Wilcox and Donovan Todorov had stellar production as well. Wilcox finished with 19 kills (.239) and three blocks while Todorov went for nine kills (.350) and eight stuffs. It was Todorov’s fourth eight-block performance in his last eight contests.
GCU won the first set 25-21.
The night started out the same way as in Friday’s match, as the Antelopes were solid out of the gates. They had their best hitting set (.324) to open things up, creating separation midway through the game and enjoying a 3-0 block advantage to go up 1-0.
Pecsok registered nine digs in the opening set alone. Entering the week, his season-high for an entire match was nine digs.
UCSB won the second set 25-12.
The Gauchos answered with a dominant stretch of play, holding GCU to a -.097 hitting percentage in set two. Todorov had three of UCSB’s five blocks, while Wilcox and Amoruso tallied five kills each.
Leading 11-8, the Gauchos closed the game on a 14-4 run, tying the match at one set apiece with the final kills coming from Wilcox and then Paragas.
Then UCSB won the third set 25-23.
Wilcox and Amoruso were at it again in a tight third set, combining for 11 of UCSB’s 17 kills.
The Gauchos trailed 10-8, but took the lead for good with a 6-1 run that included two kills and an ace from Wilcox. Junior middle blocker Brandon Hicks provided the final touches to close out the 25-23 win.
GCU won the fourth set 25-20.
GCU’s defense stepped up to force the decisive fifth set, holding UCSB to a nightly low .065 hitting percentage in a game four that had no lead changes.
Then UCSB won the fifth set 15-12.
UCSB scored the first three points of set five and led 5-1 following an Antelope attacking error. Paragas later served up an ace to make it 11-6 and Hicks would end the match 15-12 with his final kill of the night.
The Gauchos will be home for their next six matches, starting on Friday, against BYU at 7 pm at Robertson Gymnasium.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.