The No. 5 UCSB men’s volleyball team split its matches this week with a loss against No. 8 UC Irvine Friday and a three-set sweep against UC San Diego Saturday.
The Gauchos head into the second half of their season with an overall record of 10-5 and a conference record of 9-5. UCSB is currently ranked in fifth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation alongside Hawaii.
“We didn’t come out ready to play against Irvine to start the match, but we showed some good fight in set three and turned it into a competitive match,” junior outside hitter Kevin Donohue said. “Despite losing on Friday, we were able to get a solid game plan for against UC San Diego.”
On Saturday night, UCSB traveled down to San Diego and was victorious against the Tritons in three quick sets. Senior outside hitter Matt Hanley had a career-high night for the Gauchos, recording 20 kills at a .731 clip.
“Hanley came out extremely focused,” Donahue said. “From the very first point it was obvious that he was ready to go.”
The Gauchos came out strong in the first set, taking an early 7-1 lead against UCSD. They were able to maintain this performance for most of the game, but the Tritons came back in the third set and tied it at 13. After UCSD’s quick comeback, the Gauchos found their rhythm, going on a 12-5 point run to end the game.
In addition to Hanley’s impressive night, several Gauchos contributed to the strong offensive performance against UCSD. Junior middle blocker Jake Staahl recorded nine kills and junior opposite Evan Licht had three service aces.
After this weekend the Tritons now hold an overall record 1-16 and have yet to earn a win in conference play at 0-15 in the MPSF.
A night earlier, the Gauchos did not have such an easy game against UC Irvine. After a slow start, falling behind in the first and second set, the Gauchos were unable to build the momentum they needed. The match ended in four sets, with the only Gaucho victory coming from a 26-24 win in the third set.
“We just came out and tried to be as aggressive as we could in the third set,” Staahl said. “That is one of our biggest problems is to not get caught up with the game plan so much and just play aggressive volleyball.”
UCSB was out-blocked by UC Irvine 11.5-9 and was held to a .059 hitting clip in the fourth set when the team needed its offensive strength the most. In addition, Santa Barbara’s strong consistent serving attack was nowhere to be found. The Gauchos were unable to get a single service ace in comparison with UCI’s four.
The Anteaters advance to an overall record of 11-8 and a conference record of 8-7.
The men’s volleyball team returns home this week with two games against UCLA and UCSD.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of March 3, 2014′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.