It was the weekend of long goodbyes, as the #14 UCSB men’s volleyball team split their weekend games with Mountain Pacific Sports Federation foes Long Beach State and UC San Diego (10-19 overall, 6-16 MPSF) while saying goodbye to four seniors and its head coach.
On Friday, the Gauchos (10-17 overall, 7-15 in the MPSF) were swept by Long Beach (22-5 overall, 17-4 MPSF) by scores of 30-18, 30-25 and 30-24. Senior outside hitter Paul Lotman led the 49ers with 19 kill, six aces and an attack percentage of .555. Sophomore opposite Dean Bittner was second with 13 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Dan Alexander held it down defensively for the 49ers with a match-high six blocks. Long Beach held the Gauchos to a low attack percentage for the majority of the game, including a -.042 clip in the first frame. The Gauchos hit .250 overall in the match.
“[Long Beach] served us very, very tough,” junior middle blocker Matt Thobe said. “Our passing was not there. When our passing is not there, we can’t run the middle. Our outsides hit very well, but we couldn’t get our middles going, and that is why they beat us.”
On Saturday, after the court was cleared from the senior appreciation celebration, the Gauchos handed UC San Diego its final loss of the 2008 season in four games. The match was back and forth, as three of the four games were pushed to extra points.
“It would have been nice to sweep [UCSD], but we kept it entertaining,” Thobe said. “We had a good time with it.”
This weekend was the final match for seniors Theo Brunner, Ben Brockman, Mike Fisher and Phil Mathews. All four seniors started the match, and it was outside hitter Mathews and middle blocker Brunner who had banner nights. Mathews, who notched a career-high .750 clip in the match against Long Beach, accumulated 11 kills. Brunner, who had the final two points for the Gauchos off of solo blocks, ended with 15 kills, a .667 attack percentage and seven blocks.
“[Theo] finished really strong,” Thobe said. “He had a rough year, but to be able to finish like this is a good way to finish his career.”
This was also the final game of UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston. Preston will retire with a record of 516-381 over 30 years.
“It was great to get Kenny [Preston] a win on his last night,” Thobe said. “That was real important for us as a team. You got a special bond with a coach. We were happy to do that.”