Graduate outside hitter Jaylen Jasper gets a kill against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 1, at Firestone Fieldhouse. Jasper finished the game with 17 kills on 42 attempts, good for a .472 percentage. Photos by Emma Ibarra
Led by the teams’ emotion and graduate outside hitter Jaylen Jasper, the No. 5 Pepperdine Waves swept the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in three straight competitive sets Feb. 1, at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Over the past few years, UCSB had the Waves Men’s Volleyball team on lockdown. After kicking the Waves out of the playoffs in 2021, the Gauchos upset Pepperdine twice in 2022.
“UCSB’s given us a lot of trouble the last couple years. They are a good team; they play really hard, and they’re well coached,” Head Coach Johnathan Winder said. “I thought the guys were happy about it’s good we’re playing well.”
The Waves struggled at the start of the match, allowing Santa Barbara to get five of their first 14 points on faulty Pepperdine serves. Luckily for the Waves, a trio of kills from Jasper kept the Waves in the game as the Gauchos reached an 18-14 lead.
Pepperdine then caught fire in order to close out the first set on an 11-5 run. Sophomore outside hitters Joe Deluzio and Jasper paved way for the offensive with a pair of kills. Defensively, senior outside hitter Akin Akinwumi held things down, totaling three blocks in the first set.
“We got a few lucky plays where we were going up, getting good touches off a block and were able to transition to put it back down,” junior setter Bryce Dvorak said.
The second set followed a similar pattern. A total of 12 errors split between the two sides kept the game close, with UCSB leading at 14-13.
The Waves then pulled ahead on an 11-4 run, which was sparked by three straight kills by Jackson. Pepperdine’s 24-18 lead began to dwindle after a pair of kills from UCSB senior outside hitter Ryan Wilcox. Jasper was finally able to end the Gauchos attempted comeback with a kill that ended the set 25-21.
The Waves celebrate after getting a kill against Santa Barbara on Feb.1 at Firestone Fieldhouse. Pepperdine maintained strong emotion throughout all three sets.
When Dvorak blocked UCSB’s Wilcox’s attack with the score tied 9-9, Dvorak shouted with excitement while staring down Wilcox. The junior setter’s reaction was so extreme that referee Tony Chan issued a yellow card.
As the ref held up the yellow card — the student section erupted in the loudest cheer of the night.
For Winder — the moment was fearful, as he said he did not want to give the Gauchos any extra motivation, but for the team, the moment was filled with excitement and adrenaline.
“Yellow cards are not the best thing in the world, but watching Bryce get hype after he stuffed that ball straight down and the crowd started cheering, it was cool,” Jasper said.
After the Waves got the lead in the third set, their momentum never wavered. Deluzio, Jasper and Akinwumi all continued their high-end performances and the Waves finished off Santa Barbara with a score of 25-21.
Given the Gauchos previous dominance over the Waves, this victory was undoubtedly worth celebrating, Jasper said.
“When that last ball dropped, I felt like I was going to cry, I was so happy. [UCSB’s] ball control is insane; they just find the floor and wear you down,” Jasper said. “To be able to play well and beat them at their own game was awesome.”
The Waves were unable to celebrate their victory for long — as the Gauchos defeated the Waves 3-2 on Feb. 3, in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Catch the Waves back in Firestone Fieldhouse on Feb. 8 as they take on UC Irvine.
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