The No. 6 UCSB men’s volleyball team lost at No. 1 USC on Saturday in straight sets 25-21, 25-21, 30-28. The Gauchos (14-14 overall, 11-11 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) now enter the postseason having lost four of their last five matches.
[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”163″][/media-credit] The Trojans (21-2 overall, 20-1 MPSF) were able to outblock UCSB by a 12.5 to three margin, which helped them win all three sets despite only outhitting the Gauchos .393 to .327. The Gauchos had more digs (30 to 22) and kills (52 to 42), but USC had more aces (4 to 1) and less errors (9 to 19).
“They just had a few points here and there that went their way,” senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel said. “They were also a little more comfortable serving in their home court than we were which allowed for them to have a good blocking night.”
The first set was tied at 18 apiece before the Trojans scored three straight points to take the lead and hold onto it for the rest of the set. Similarly, after taking a 16-15 lead and looking to tie the match in the second set, the Gauchos gave up three straight points to fall behind 18-16 and were unable to regain the lead. The third set went back and forth and was tied at 28 before a serving error and ace by USC’s Riley McKibbin ended the set at 30-28 and secured the victory for the Trojans.
Several seniors were able to finish their regular season careers with impressive performances despite facing the best team in the country. Menzel led the all players with 19 kills. Senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter recorded a season-high 14 kills with a .875 hitting percentage, while senior setter Vince Devany had a match-high 49 assists. Senior outside hitter Cullen Irons also had nine kills and four digs, with senior libero Andy McGuire leading all players with nine digs.
UCSB finishes the season as the No. 7 seed in the MPSF, so they will travel to take on No. 2 seed BYU next weekend. The Gauchos are 1-2 against the Cougars this season.
“We hope to go into Provo and rattle their cage a little,” Menzel said. “We have already beat BYU once this year so we feel real confident going into playoffs.”
Match time is set for Saturday Apr. 23 at 7 p.m. in Provo.