Despite being given the chance to prove themselves, the #7 UCSB men’s volleyball team could not prove anything.
Over the weekend, Santa Barbara lost consecutive matches on the road to #13 UC San Diego and #2 Long Beach State.
The Tritons defeated the Gauchos in a five-game battle in La Jolla Friday night. San Diego won by scores of 33-35, 33-31, 30-22, 28-30, 15-12, improving their Mountain Pacific Sports Federation record to 4-16, 8-18 overall. The following night, Long Beach dropped UCSB 30-35, 23-30, 30-26, 30-26. The 49ers, who have won 17 of their last 19 matches, improved to 24-5, 17-4 in MPSF.
The Gauchos need a single victory in either of its final two matches against UCLA or Irvine to clinch a berth into the MPSF Tournament. If UCSB cannot prove victorious against the Bruins or the Anteaters, single losses by either Stanford or Irvine will catapult the Gauchos into the playoffs.
Although it was the first to get to game point in the first game, UCSB was unable to convert three straight chances for the win until a kill from junior outside hitter Nate Wack handed the Gauchos the win. The second game remained close, with San Diego securing the win on a Santa Barbara hitting error. The Tritons took control of game three, out-hitting UCSB .548 to .194, but the Gauchos came back in the fourth frame, forcing a fifth game on kills by outside hitters freshman Kawika Burdine and junior Adam Ulfers. Although Santa Barbara was the first to get on the board in game five, the Tritons gained a three-point lead at 13-10 and never looked back.
San Diego outplayed Santa Barbara in every aspect of the game. The Tritons hit .303 on the night, holding UCSB to a mere .222 clip. Burdine emerged as the team leader in kills with 17, while sophomore opposite Evan Patak, the usual team leader, finished with just six kills.
Also finishing in double-digits for the Gauchos were middle blockers senior Justin Adams and junior Michael Kennedy with 12 kills apiece and junior opposite Mike Nelson with 11. Kennedy finished with six blocks and sophomore setter Dane Jensen once again started for UCSB, setting 60 assists.
Long Beach, however, did not outplay Santa Barbara in the same way that San Diego did. Two Gauchos finished the night with negative hitting percentages, a first this season. While Kennedy set up another stellar block, finishing with eight, and UCSB recorded 15.5 total blocks, it was not enough to stop Long Beach senior outside hitter Scott Touzinsky, who led all players with 23 kills.