On the road at Long Beach State to kick off a four-game road trip, the No. 12 UCSB men’s volleyball team fell to the 49ers 3-1 on Friday.
After defeating No. 15 Northridge on Wednesday, the Gauchos dropped the match to a suddenly hot Long Beach team in a battle for eighth place in the MPSF.
“They played pretty good,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “They earned their win, but we look forward to getting them up here and playing them again because I think it’s a team that we can compete with for sure.”
UCSB drops to 4-8 overall (2-6 MPSF) with the loss and now sits one game behind the 49ers for the final spot in the conference playoffs.
No. 9 Long Beach meanwhile has won two straight after defeating then No. 1 UCLA on Tuesday, a marquee upset for the 49ers. Long Beach sits at 7-6 overall with a 3-5 mark in the MPSF.
“They felt good; you could see a new confidence level,” McLaughlin said. “Beating the number one team is going to do that for you. They were ready to go. We actually played tough with them the first two games, then they took over.”
Using that momentum from the UCLA victory, Long Beach came out attacking against the Gauchos, taking the first set 25-20.
Bouncing back however, was a Santa Barbara squad that has improved as of late. The Gauchos needed extra points to overcome Long Beach capturing the second set 30-28 in a tough back-and-forth battle.
“It looked like we just lost focus pretty much right out of the gate,” junior middle blocker Dylan Davis said. “We weren’t all with it. I think it was just one of those games where we failed to come together in the beginning. We came out flat in the beginning and we were never able to recover from it.”
Headlining the Long Beach offense was junior middle blocker Colten Echave with a game-high 17 kills. Echave helped the 49ers to a 25-15 victory in the third set to take a 2-1 lead.
Overall, the 49ers had six players who recorded eight or more kills in the game. Long Beach used that diversity to overpower UCSB, clinching the match with a 25-20 win in the fourth and final set.
“It was really what was on the court that was the biggest factor in the game,” Davis said. “We didn’t bring what we needed to.”
Offensively, junior outside hitter Miles Evans led the Gauchos with a team-high 16 kills, while freshman outside hitter Kevin Donohue continued to impress with a game-high 12 digs and 13 kills of his own.
Freshman outside hitter Weston Nielsen contributed eight digs, five kills and five blocks for the Gauchos, while Davis had five kills and three blocks.
“Our blocking is coming around,” McLaughlin said. “You’re always going to block better against some teams than you do against others just because you match up better with them, and we matched up pretty good with Long Beach. We were able to block pretty well, we just didn’t receive serves real well.”
As a squad, Santa Barbara recorded 11 team blocks compared to 13 for Long Beach.
“Our blocking is getting better, slowly but surely,” Davis said. “We’ve been working on it a lot in practice. We just need to keep working on every aspect of the game.”
UCSB continues their road trip on Friday when they travel to BYU. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.