Déja vu struck the Gaucho men’s volleyball team during last night’s loss to #2 Pepperdine, making for UCSB’s second five-game defeat in less than a week.
Just as it did at home against #1 UCLA on Friday night, Santa Barbara (5-7 overall, 5-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) quickly fell behind two games to none but managed to battle back, forcing a deciding game five. In similar fashion to Friday’s match, Pepperdine (7-1 overall, 7-1 MPSF) overpowered Santa Barbara in the final game with a score of 15-12, taking the match 3-2.
“We got a little tentative toward the end of the game,” senior libero Aaron Mansfield said. “We’ve given up too many points in a row in game five, but I still think we’re in a good position and that we’re a better team.”
The loss to the Waves marks Santa Barbara’s third loss in a row, its longest losing streak thus far this season. The Gauchos continue to start slow during matches, and this makes upending top-ranked opponents an even tougher achievement.
“It takes us a while to get in rhythm,” Mansfield said. “I think we need to prepare better before the games and in warm-ups. It’s a hard thing to touch on, but maybe some more aggression early on will help.”
Santa Barbara didn’t lose by much, trailing 30-27 in game one and 30-28 in game two. Pepperdine traded defeats with the Gauchos in the latter pair of games, losing games three and four 30-26 and 30-27, respectively.
“We were with [Pepperdine] most of the time, and lately we’ve been trying to come out a lot stronger,” sophomore opposite Evan Patak said. “We’re heading in the right direction, though, and we’re making progress.”
Mansfield, who scooped a season-high 17 digs on the night, helped Santa Barbara escape the three-game sweep by leading the Gauchos in their comeback, along with Patak and freshman middle blocker Theo Brunner. Patak led both teams with 28 kills, while Brunner tallied 18 kills – second among the Gauchos – and five blocks.
“Our outside hitters did a good job,” Mansfield said. “My performance wasn’t anything spectacular; I was just in the right spot at the right time. I’ve got to give credit to my blockers, though; along with good serves, they made my job easy.”
Playing #1 UCLA and #2 Pepperdine back-to-back would be tough for any opponent, but the Gauchos are taking it as motivation to improve, and they look to refine their game for future success.
“As much as it hurts to lose in game five, it’s good to know that we’re there with [UCLA and Pepperdine],” Patak said. “If we eliminate errors, then we should beat those teams in the future.”