The No. 8 UCSB men’s volleyball team fell short once again to No. 5 UCLA last Friday night at Rob Gym, losing three sets to one. Despite winning the first set of the match, the Gauchos dropped the next three sets as they were unable to come out with a win against the Bruins for the second time this season.
An inability to establish a consistent passing game on the offensive side of the ball proved too much for the Gauchos to overcome, as they lost their second consecutive game of the season.
“We didn’t pass great, and when you don’t pass great it’s hard to get it to your middle blockers,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “It was just tough, those guys served pretty good and we just didn’t receive serve well enough. We got a lot of practice to do.”
Santa Barbara drops to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the MPSF conference and are currently in the number nine slot in the standings with two other teams. UCLA continues its strong early season start as it improves to 6-3 overall and is fourth in conference with a 2-1 record.
In a very even-sided first set with each team still struggling to find its rhythm, the Gauchos were able to take a slight lead early into the set before the Bruins called timeout with the score at 18-15in favor of Santa Barbara. Still trailing, UCLA was unable to control senior middle blocker Dylan Davis, who started a 5-2 run by UCSB on his third kill of the set, leading to the 25-21 win.
Very quickly, however, UCLA began to find a groove offensively, entering the second set and jumped out to a 14-7 lead as they compiled a .542 hitting percentage for the set. Six different Bruins scored in the frame as they extended their lead to as much as eight points before eventually winning 25-17 to even the game at one apiece.
UCLA was equally as dominating in the third set. Santa Barbara had no answer for junior outside hitter Robart Page, who had three consecutive kills and combined for 15 kills in total, contributing to another 25-17 win.
“I thought the way [UCLA] received serve was a big part of the game; it allowed their offense to click,” McLaughlin said. “I thought their center did a good job; he distributed pretty evenly. He knew when to go and where, and that usually equals a win.”
Trying to find a solution to stop the bleeding, McLaughlin experimented with the starting rotation prior to the start of the fourth set, putting in three different starters. McLaughlin made seven substitutions in the course of the game, but UCLA capped off an impressive performance with a 25-19 victory in the fourth set.
“Losing is always disappointing, but it’s something to learn from and we’ll pick ourselves back up,” sophomore opposite Matt Marsh said. “We are looking forward to having our crowd behind us and really being able to push ourselves and just work hard. That’s all we need to do; we just need to work hard and we’ll be better.”
UCSB now awaits Friday’s matchup against Pacific as they travel up the road for another critical conference match.