The UCSB men’s volleyball team would be unbeatable if games ended at 15 points.
The Gauchos collapsed down the stretch in each game as UCLA came to The Rob on Wednesday night and swept UCSB in three games, 30-26, 30-28,30-28.
“Our serving sucked; it’s the second match in a row we missed 19 serves,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “We out-blocked them 18.5 to 11, so why miss your serves? We gave them 15 side-outs and we shouldn’t be doing that; I was disappointed with that.”
UCLA stormed ahead of Santa Barbara in the middle of game one, taking a 24-16 lead. The resilient Gauchos stormed back behind the efforts of junior middle blocker Justin Adams and senior outside hitters Keith Busam and Jan Carlo Zegarra. UCSB cut the UCLA lead to 27-26, but the Bruins rallied off three straight points to end the Gaucho threat.
Adams tallied Santa Barbara’s first four points of the second game, and UCSB jumped out to an 8-2 lead. Weak serving and passing cost the Gauchos again, as UCLA stormed back behind sophomore outside hitter Jonathan Acosta and junior middle blocker Chris Pena to jump ahead of Santa Barbara 14-13. The two teams traded leads throughout the end of the second game before hitting errors cost the Gauchos the second game.
“Jonathan’s jump floats seemed to give Santa Barbara some passing trouble, and we scored a lot behind Jonathan’s serves,” UCLA Head Coach Al Scates said. “We managed to score when we needed to score. Santa Barbara had a good game planned. They were shutting us down, but it all happened early and we were able to comeback.”
UCSB (5-11 overall, 2-8 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the third game, eventually pushing it to 14-9. The Bruins would respond again, tallying nine of the next 10 points, and taking the lead 18-15. Santa Barbara closed to within 28-27, but the Bruins held off UCSB’s last push, sinking them to another loss.
“I know I didn’t play well, that was pretty key,” Busam said. “Serve and receiving was huge, and we didn’t play well at key points in the game. We did a good job killing ourselves tonight.”
Freshman opposite Matt McKinney led UCLA (7-7,4-6) with 14 kills on the night, along with two digs. Acosta finished second in kills with 12 and senior setter Rich Nelson had a team-high 38 assists.
“I think Acosta is playing better than he has in a long time,” Scates said. “Santa Barbara’s game plan was good and they were in the game. They took out our middles by committee, so it was good to see Jonathan and McKinney pick up the slack on the outside.”
Adams recorded seven assisted blocks, a .542 hitting percentage and posted a match-high 16 kills. Zegarra added 10 kills and sophomore middle blocker Michael Kennedy contributed nine. Freshman setter Bart Kowalski tallied a match-high 44 assists in the losing effort. The Gauchos out-hit the Bruins .268 to .235, but timely mistakes spelled doom for Santa Barbara on this night.
“We were right in the game each time, just something raised its ugly head and it bit us,” Preston said. “We are not a consistent team and it’s pretty evident.”
UCSB heads to Long Beach State and UC San Diego this weekend. The Gauchos need to pick up wins this weekend to get back into playoff contention.
“UCLA is a team we need to beat if we want to make the playoffs,” Busam said. “Now we have to upset another team like we upset BYU last weekend, so it makes it that much tougher.”