The #3 UCSB men’s volleyball team that went on a four-match winning streak earlier this month seems to be a completely different squad after this weekend’s performance. The Gauchos fell to #7 UCLA for the second time this season, extending a two-match losing streak.
Despite winning the third set, the Gauchos (12-5 overall, 10-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) were unable to come together to effectively put the game away and lost in four games 30-28, 30-24, 30-32 and 30-19.
“Losing to UCLA shows not that we had a bad mach, but that we have bigger problems within our team to work out,” sophomore setter Max Klineman said. “We need to work on how we compete. We know that we’re the better team, but we weren’t able to compete at the level we are used to. If we played this way, we wouldn’t have beaten UCSD earlier this season.”
Five players on the Gaucho roster individually shone with 10 or more kills, but the players could not come together as a team to retaliate for a second win over the Bruins (10-7, 8-6 MPSF). Leading the way offensively for UCSB was junior middle blocker Theo Brunner with 14 kills on the night, followed by senior opposite Evan Patak, who has consistently led the team in most offensive categories, with 13. Seniors middle blocker David Kennedy and outside hitters Aaron Richman and Bryan Berman rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 kills apiece.
“For me as a setter, I’d like to see effectiveness from all of our hitters,” Klineman said. “[Patak] has been very reliable this year and we shouldn’t have to count on him. … We need to win without Patak because everyone on the team has good hitting percentages. The outside hitters need to step up; the more we can balance our offense, the more our effective hitters will be.”
But even individual talent was outdone on the Bruin side of the net, as Steve Klosterman starred in the match with 23 kills in the four sets.
In the 2006-2007 season, UCSB is 1-2 against UCLA, as each team has split an MPSF match. Historically, the scales are tilted in favor of the Bruins, who have won 13 of the past 14 matchups between the two.
“I think we knew the importance of this match; the way we approach regular season games is for the postseason, to win the national championship,” Klineman said. “We looked at this game as if we didn’t win, our season is over. We didn’t come out to play in Pauley.”
The Gauchos will close out February play on the road with three more travel dates. Their next contest will be held against #10 Cal State Northridge (8-9, 6-6 MPSF) on Wednesday, before a pair of non-league matches hosted by #6 Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne the first weekend of March.