After playing five straight road games, the UCSB men’s volleyball team found out this weekend that winning isn’t necessarily easier at home.
The Gauchos endured another tough weekend by dropping both of their matches to Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents Pacific and Stanford. Santa Barbara fell in four games to UOP on Friday night, 30-24, 31-29, 28-30, 30-19, and then in five games Saturday night to the #10 Cardinal, 35-37, 34-32, 25-30, 30-21, 15-8.
“We continue to make mental errors when it counts the most and oftentimes the difference between winning and losing the match is mental mistakes,” senior outside hitter Keith Busam said.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over the Gauchos (3-7, 1-4 in the MPSF) behind a .594 hitting percentage in the opening game. Santa Barbara rallied back in the second game to take a 29-26 lead, but the Tigers hammered out five consecutive points to take a commanding 2-0 lead. The Gauchos hung on to the lead in the third game, but the Tigers finished strong in the fourth game, winning by 11 points to take the match.
“It’s frustrating to know that we are right there and then we lose it at the end,” sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield said.
The Tigers won behind a .416 hitting percentage, countering UCSB’s .261. Sophomore opposite Nils Dauburs led Pacific with 32 kills, hitting .532, while registering three blocks and 11 digs. Senior outside hitter Martin Berntsen recorded 22 kills.
The Gauchos managed to outblock the Tigers as a team, 10.0-9.0, in the loss. Busam again led UCSB in kills with 14, followed by junior middle blocker Justin Adams with 13, and sophomore middle blocker Michael Kennedy with 12. Mansfield finished with 10 digs for Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos followed Friday’s setback with a heartbreaker on Saturday Night against #10 Stanford.
Santa Barbara won a hard-fought first game 37-35 behind 26 team kills. Stanford then took the second game, 34-32, in another back and forth battle. The Gauchos would rally to take a 2-1 game lead over the Cardinal, but Santa Barbara could not finish it off from there. The Gauchos collapsed in the deciding game hitting only -.048 to Stanford’s .500. The Cardinal rode this advantage to a nine-point win in game four and a seven-point win in game five.
“They got a string of points against us and it’s hard to come back from that,” Mansfield said.
Senior outside hitter William Strickland had 18 kills for the Cardinal and senior opposite Curt Toppel, finished with 16 kills.
“It’s not one thing that we are doing wrong, it’s a lot of mental errors,” Mansfield said.
The Gauchos did receive solid performances out of both sophomore outside hitter Matt Boelk and Busam, who also tied for the match-high in kills with 18. Freshman setter Bart Kowalski logged a match-high 60 assists for Santa Barbara and Mansfield also had a match-high 13 digs in the loss.
The losses drop the Gauchos into a ninth-place tie in the MPSF with UCLA and USC. #1 Irvine comes to Rob Gym Tuesday night, fresh off a three-game sweep over defending national champ Hawaii on Saturday night.
“The good thing about this league is that any team can win on any given night,” Busam said. “We’re 3-7 now but we know we could be 7-3.”