For the second straight weekend the #13 UCSB men’s volleyball team continued on its trail of inconsistency, splitting its two matches.
Santa Barbara fell at #7 Long Beach State on Friday night in the Pyramid in three straight games 30-27, 32-30, 30-26. The Gauchos responded the following evening though by sweeping UC San Diego 30-27, 30-24, 30-20.
“It’s been a struggle to find our groove all year,” sophomore outside hitter Adam Ulfers said. “Against Long Beach we couldn’t find anything and then against San Diego we started out slow and then we were able to put it all together. San Diego is not as good as Long Beach, but we could have beaten Long Beach just as easily. It’s been a constant struggle to find consistency; the talent is there but we just need to put it together.”
The 49ers (9-7 overall, 5-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) rode to victory against Santa Barbara behind the efforts of four players who reached double digits in kills. Junior outside hitter Scott Touzinsky paced the 49ers with a match-high 15 kills. Junior outside hitter Jeff Wooten added 13 kills, Robert Tarr notched 12 and junior middle blocker David Lee finished with 10. Freshman setter Tyler Hildebrand , the nation’s leader in assists, registered a match-high 52. Long Beach out-hit the Gauchos .414 to .319, including an impressive .375 to .182 in the third game.
Santa Barbara (6-12, 3-9 in the MPSF) did receive a solid performance from sophomore middle blocker Michael Kennedy, who hoarded a team-high 11 kills in the loss. Senior outside hitters Keith Busam and Jan Carlo Zegarra both contributed 10 kills. Freshmen Dane Jensen and Bart Kowalski split time as setter, with Kowalski finishing with 23 assists and Jensen with 19.
“I thought we played well and it was one of our better matches,” Kennedy said. “But sometimes we lack intensity and the team chemistry wasn’t really there.”
Saturday night, Santa Barbara swept UCSD at RIMAC Arena in San Diego, handing the Tritons (3-12, 0-11) another woeful night in a season marked by mediocrity.
“I’ve been getting more time on the court so I am more comfortable out there playing,” Ulfers said.
Ulfers garnered a match-high 16 kills on a .444 hitting percentage to lead Santa Barbara. Busam contributed 11 kills and Zegarra added 10, along with a team-high six digs. Kowalski dished out 40 assists in the win also. UCSB out-hit the Tritons .295 to .130 for the match and used a .484 to .175 hitting advantage to take the third game. The Gauchos also out-blocked UCSD 16.5 to 10.
“I thought I played pretty well this weekend,” Kennedy said. “Ulfers had a great game Saturday night and sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield did a very good job passing. San Diego was tough, they definitely weren’t a pushover.”
Triton senior outside hitter Eric Perrine managed a team-high 13 kills in the match, and junior opposite Jim Waller, with a .065 hitting percentage, added 11 kills. Santa Barbara will not see San Diego again until the final game of the season on April 12.
The Gauchos will travel to Stockton on Thursday to face #8 Pacific before heading to #9 Stanford for a another important MPSF match on Friday night.
“We need to play as one instead of just six guys on the court,” Ulfers said.