The Beach’s current was too strong for the #7 UCSB men’s volleyball team this weekend.
Santa Barbara allowed #2 Long Beach State to pull the Gauchos to a 3-0 loss in the first round of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs against the 49ers.
A rowdy 49er crowd heckled Santa Barbara (14-16 overall, 9-13 MPSF) in its 30-17, 30-27, 30-25 loss at The Pyramid.
Long Beach took immediate charge of the match from the first serve, not letting the Gauchos get anywhere near their lead until the second frame.
“They were awfully good and we were kind of surprised,” UCSB Head Coach Kenny Preston said. “They came out with a different game plan than we expected. We felt like they were going to go to the middle a lot but they didn’t.”
UCSB could not get anything started in game one, hitting just .069. Preston searched for a better combination of players, replacing freshman outside hitter Kawika Burdine with junior Nate Wack and freshman setter Bryan Berman with sophomore Dane Jensen. Berman was placed back in the game and eventually set 26 assists on the night.
“They were a very well-oiled group and we just weren’t,” Preston said. “I think we were nervous.”
Santa Barbara took a slight but short-lived lead with consecutive double blocks by Wack and junior middle blocker Michael Kennedy in game two. Long Beach (26-5 overall) rallied with the Gauchos, the two teams staying neck-and-neck until the 49ers pulled ahead, leaving UCSB at 25 and allowing Santa Barbara only two more points before closing the game.
“We kind of neutralized them for a while, but they were very consistent,” Preston said.
The Gauchos’ defense finally came alive in the third frame, combining a renewed hitting power with a strong defense, but it was not enough to keep UCSB afloat. Santa Barbara out-blocked the 49ers 5.5 to zero, but the Gauchos still couldn’t keep a solid four hands on senior outside hitter Scott Touzinsky, who finished the night with 21 kills.
“They’re a very good defensive team and a very good side-out team,” Preston said.
Jeff Wootton and Robert Tarr both finished in double digits with 16 and 13 kills, respectively. Kennedy and sophomore opposite Evan Patak both recorded 11 kills for the Gauchos, but no other Gaucho could muster more than five. Junior libero Aaron Mansfield dug 10 balls while Kennedy had a game-high seven blocks.
“Kennedy was strong but we weren’t very strong on the outside,” Preston said.
UCSB set out to serve tough and block well, and while the Gauchos performed at the net, Santa Barbara was not as effective from the baseline. The Gauchos had 10 service errors, which was less than Long Beach’s 17, but only one service ace, which came courtesy of freshman outside hitter Jake Wiens.
Santa Barbara ends its season one step ahead of last year’s team that didn’t make the playoffs.
“Our goal was to make the playoff and we did,” Preston said. “We need to improve on that next year. I foresee us being a lot better next year.”