The Gauchos beat 10th-ranked Hawaii on Friday night to split the two matches played this week in Honolulu. With the win, the squad returns from the trip with a regular season record of 6-5 and an MPSF conference record of 4-4.
[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”191″][/media-credit]“We were upset we lost the first game not because we lost, but because we know we’re better than them,” senior opposite Cullen Irons said. “We went out with that mindset in the second match and outplayed them. We need to do that for the rest of our matches this season.”
The Rainbow Warriors defeated sixth-ranked UCSB on Thursday by a score of 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-22, 27-25). After winning the first game, the Gauchos dropped the next three, losing the first of two matches in Hawaii. Four Gauchos recorded more than 12 kills, including Irons, who had a season-high 19 kills in the UCSB loss.
UCSB dominated the stat sheet, but the Hawaii duo of senior Joshua Walker and sophomore Jonas Umlauft from Germany led the Rainbow Warriors to a victory televised on the islands. The defense of Hawaii was also a factor, as six different Warriors recorded three or more blocks.
“We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities in the first match,” Irons said. “Several times we would get a nice block or a nice dig, then make some sort of error. The television announcer said it best; we made some boneheaded plays.”
The match on Friday was a different story, as the Gauchos maintained their intensity and won in three straight games (25-22, 25-23, 25-23). Although UCSB swept Hawaii, the match was close with ties at 22-22 in each game. Behind the 15 kills of senior Jeff Menzel, the Gauchos capitalized on Hawaii errors late in games to earn a split in the weekend series.
Hawaii’s mistakes created opportunities for UCSB, but team defense was crucial in the Gaucho win. Sophomore middle blocker Dylan Davis recorded four blocks, and match point came on a block from Irons and senior setter Vince Devany. Hawaii was held to a hitting percentage of just .213 on Friday night.
“We were disappointed with losing the first match, but it was good to see us refocus and win the second match on Friday,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “That’s a big win. Getting the split over there is a good thing. Getting home with at least once victory is big for the team.”
Next up on the schedule for UCSB is two matches versus MPSF rival UCLA next week. The Gauchos take on the Bruins in Los Angeles on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. before the teams play a rematch in Rob Gym this Friday night.