The #3 UCSB men’s volleyball team ran into a wall called #2 Irvine last night, as the Anteaters defeated the Gauchos 3-1.
“Their passing got better all match, and they were in system all the time, and we were not,” junior outside hitter Michael Fisher said. “We passed poorly, and when you pass poorly, the wheels come off of your offense. The wheels just came off tonight.”
In game one, the Gauchos (12-4 overall, 10-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) jumped to a 6-2 early on. After the Anteaters (16-3, 10-3 in the MPSF) pulled within three at 13-10, the Gauchos rattled off a 6-3 run to pull ahead by six at 19-13. Following Anteater senior Jayson Jablonsky’s serve that went into the net at 20-14, the Gauchos recorded their largest lead of the game at 23-16. The eight point deficit would hold until the end, as the Gauchos eventually won game one 30-22.
In game two, the Anteaters pulled ahead 13-6. However, three consecutive kills by senior opposite Evan Patak pulled the Gauchos with one at 16-15. The rest of the game was back and forth, as both teams exchanged ties and leads. However, the Anteaters would finish with a 10-7 run to win game two, and even the match at one game apiece, 30-27.
The Anteaters played their best volleyball in game three, out-hitting the Gauchos .542 to -.042. This was the first time all season that the Gauchos finished with a negative hitting percentage for a game. The Gauchos trailed the entire game and Irvine netted their largest lead at the end, a 12 point deficit, as the Anteaters won game three 30-18.
Game four was back and forth, as both teams would battle for the lead until a 16-16 tie. At that point, the Anteaters pulled ahead by two and held the lead until winning game four and the match, 30-25.
“They just out-served us,” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “We couldn’t get in system. We had a hard time passing out more aggressively. Our streak of errors got to us.”
Patak led all players with 26 total kills, and four service aces. Junior middle blocker Theo Brunner was the only other Gaucho to record double-digit kills, as he ended with 10. Senior outside hitter Bryan Berman led the Gauchos with a .412 hitting clip.
The Anteaters had four players with double-digit kills totals, with a team leading 16 kills from senior opposite Matt Webber. Jablonsky and senior middle blocker David Smith tied for second with 15, and freshman opposite Cole Reinholm rounded out the quartet with 11 kills. Smith had a record night, leading all players with an Irvine record setting .938 hitting percentage – knocking down 15 kills in 16 attempts without a single error. The Anteaters ended with 20 total team blocks, with a match leading six blocks from Smith, and out blocked the Gauchos 10 to 4.5.
“This is a mental game.” Richman said. “The errors just got the worst of us.”