Senior night had no happy ending for the No. 7 UCSB men’s volleyball team. Facing No. 6 Pepperdine at the Thunderdome Friday night, the Gauchos were spurred on by the pregame festivities honoring their four senior players and took the first set before dropping the next three sets to lose 3-1.
“We didn’t come through with the big points after the first game the whole night; Pepperdine did,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “Our serve was off after the first game. We had a lot of errors; they beat us pretty good even though the scores were close. It was pretty one-sided the last three games.”
UCSB ends the 2013 regular season at 15-15 overall and 11-13 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, finishing seventh place in the league and earning the seventh seed for the playoffs. After being ranked as low as 12th place in the MPSF in February, the Gauchos went on a seven-game winning streak in March that propelled them to a first-round matchup in the postseason against UC Irvine on Saturday.
“It’s kind of a bummer that we had to go out like this like in our last home game but we made playoffs, so that was our goal for the season,” senior outside hitter Grant Goswiller said. “We’re looking strong right now.”
The Waves finish 14-11 overall and 13-11 in conference and will face UCLA in the first round of the postseason.
Santa Barbara came out strong in the opening moments of the match to take a commanding 10-4 lead in set one. The Waves made an effort to come back but the energy brought by the Gauchos enabled them to win the set 25-20, not giving up the lead the entire frame.
UCSB once again took an early lead heading into second frame, but Pepperdine was able to even the game at 10 all before pulling ahead and winning the set 25-21. Fueled by a .409 hitting performance in the third game, the Waves won 25-19 to set up game four.
Down 10-5 in the fourth, the Gauchos rallied behind senior middle blocker and team captain Dylan Davis, who scored six kills in the set and gave UCSB enough momentum to tie the game at 23. However, Pepperdine was able to earn the last two points of the set to outlast the Gauchos 25-23 and win the game 3-1.
“We didn’t start off too hot but we ended up getting a lot of momentum and tied it back up,” Goswiller said. “The last couple balls just didn’t go our way.”
Although limiting a majority of the Waves players, sophomore outside hitter Josh Taylor and senior opposite Maurice Torres accounted for 33 of Pepperdine’s 47 kills in the game. The two applied pressure on the Gaucho defense throughout the match.
In his final regular season game at home, Davis led the way for the Gauchos with an impressive stat line of 10 kills, four digs and a .571 hitting percentage. Junior opposite Evan Licht continues his excellent play and had a career-high 23 kills for UCSB.
Despite ending the season on a loss, the season is still not over for the Gauchos. Next for Santa Barbara will be a road playoff game in the quarterfinals against Irvine with the winner advancing to the next stage of the MPSF tournament. The game is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of April 15th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus.