The UCSB men’s volleyball team fell at Irvine in three games Thursday night. The Anteaters defeated the Gauchos for the third straight time this year, 30-18, 30-23, 30-28.

“We just didn’t play well,” senior outside hitter Keith Busam said. “Irvine is a good all all-around team and we didn’t get into any kind of groove against them.”

Irvine took advantage of a .059 hitting percentage from Santa Barbara in game one and continued to outplay the Gauchos throughout the rest of the match.

UCI junior outside hitter Jimmy Pelzel led all players with 23 kills on a .636 hitting percentage. Junior libero Greg Ford spearheaded the Anteater defense, contributing 11 assists. For the match, Irvine out-blocked UCSB 8 to 4.5 and out-hit the Gauchos .432 to .276.

A pair of sophomore outside hitters led the Gauchos in kills. Adam Ulfers notched a team-high 12 kills and Nate Wack added 10 in the loss. Ulfers and sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield each recorded a team-high five digs. Santa Barbara continues to evaluate the setter position with freshman Dane Jensen leading the team with 21 kills and freshman Bart Kowalski not far behind with 17.

“The setters have been doing a lot better since the beginning of the year,” Busam said. “It’s very tough to have true freshman come in and set, but they both were thrown into the fire and have improved.”

Santa Barbara remains in 11th place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, with only USC and UC San Diego following UCSB in the standings. The Gauchos have now lost five of their last six MPSF matches.

Santa Barbara (9-17, 4-14) entered the match against Irvine on a roll, winning its previous two games. The Gauchos used their home court advantage to defeat the University of La Verne 30-19, 30-27 and 30-22 on March 25 and Quincy University 30-25, 30-23, 30-25 on March 13. The Gauchos emptied their benches in the wins against the two non-conference teams, with 13 players registering kills in the two games.

UCSB travels to Hawaii next weekend to play two matches in Honolulu against the Rainbow Warriors. The MPSF tournament-bound Rainbows defeated the Gauchos in last year’s tournament and eventually went on to win the 2002 national title.

“Hawaii is a great place to play,” Busam said. “They get around 6,000 fans there and it’s a great atmosphere. It’s a lot of fun to play there and hopefully we can get two wins.”