The 14th ranked UCSB men’s volleyball team came up short in its quest for revenge Wednesday night, falling to number 9 Long Beach State in a hard fought match that took all five games to decide. Long Beach had previously beaten Santa Barbara on Jan. 7 in the second round of the Santa Barbara Invitational.
“We had that fifth game,” junior opposite Cullen Irons said of dropping the deciding game. “We had it.”
The Gauchos started off the match well, winning the first game by a count of 30-23. The two teams would go on to alternate the next three sets to notch the total count at 2-2, forcing a deciding fifth set.
“We just really needed to make sure that we kept playing with the fire we had in game one and game three,” Irons said of his team’s inconsistencies.
The 49ers would go on to win the fifth set 15-9 behind a serving run that featured three botched returns by the Gauchos.
“We have to be able to fight through their runs,” Irons said. “We have to just say, ‘Alright we’re going to win this next point.'”
Junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel led the Gauchos with a game-high 25 kills. Irons added 21 kills, and junior libero Andy McGuire had a game-high 22 digs. Junior setter Vince Devany also had a game-high 63 assists.
Going forward, the Gauchos feel they just need to keep doing what they are doing on the court and things will come together for the talented squad that has been working harder than ever to improve.
“These last three days have been the most intense practices we’ve ever had,” Irons said. “I think one of the key things is being loud, getting excited about everything and just pushing each other.”
Up next for the Gauchos (0-4) is a match against UC San Diego (1-3) on Saturday, Jan. 16. San Diego will travel to Santa Barbara for the second time this year, after the Tritons beat UCSB in the seventh place game of the Santa Barbara Invitational last week.
“We all know that we can beat SD,” Irons said. “We’ve done it twice already in the preseason. We just have to come out on fire unlike last time we saw them when we came out stale. We just have to keep fighting.”
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