The #14 UCSB men’s volleyball team lost its third consecutive match, as visiting #8 Cal State Northridge defeated the Gauchos 3-1 this past weekend by scores of 31-33, 30-28, 30-24, 30-24.
“Northridge is a team that plays with a lot of intensity,” junior middle blocker Matt Thobe said. “And you need to mirror that attitude in some respects in order to beat them.”
The Gauchos (1-5 overall, 0-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) were out-hit once again, as UCSB recorded a .163 average compared to CSUN’s .278. Freshman opposite hitter Jeff Menzel, who was moved prior to the game from outside hitter to opposite, had a career-high 24 kills. Senior middle blocker Theo Brunner, who switched with Menzel from opposite, recorded 12 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Sam Moisenco led all players with eight total blocks.
“Sam is doing a stellar job defensively at the net; a quick look at his blocking stats makes that pretty clear,” Thobe said. “More than that though, he brings an intensity and drive which other players can feed off of. Jeff [Menzel] is an athletic specimen, but more than that, he is a natural competitor and a team player who leads by example.”
Junior outside hitter Eric Vance also had a career night for the Matadors (4-2, 2-1 MPSF), notching a career-high 26 kills while hitting at a .400 attack percentage. Freshman middle blocker Cody Loe was second on the Matadors with 11 kills and sophomore outside hitter Mike Gaudino rounded out the trio of double digit kills with 10.
In game one, both teams exchanged runs, with a grand total of 12 ties. At 29-28, the Gauchos were on the brink of game point, but the Matadors evened it up with a kill by Loe, pushing the game to extra points. Both teams would exchange points until a kill by Menzel would lock it up for the Gauchos and send UCSB into game two with a 1-0 game advantage.
“In game one, we spread the ball out pretty well and had an effective middle attack,” Thobe said. “In the rest of the match, our offense became a bit more predictable with Theo and Jeff getting 60 percent of the sets.”
The Gauchos looked strong at the beginning of game two, going on a 5-0 run to push the score to 5-1. But with Gaudino at the serve line at 8-12, the Gauchos committed three straight attack errors to allow the Matadors to come close at 11-12. However, the Matadors would give the favor right back, committing three straight errors themselves at 24-28. Nevertheless, Northridge was able to close out the game on a service error by UCSB senior outside hitter Michael Fisher.
With the match tied up at one apiece, the Gauchos and Matadors faced off in game three, and again UCSB opened up the game on a run, but this time it was five straight ball mishandlings to give Northridge a quick 6-2 advantage. The Gauchos would tie the game up at 15-15, but the Matadors steamed ahead to a 30-24 victory and match advantage. Northridge would continue that momentum into game four and send the Gauchos winless into the night.
“In games two and three, we let Northridge get into a better serving rhythm than in game one,” Thobe said. “That led to hitting errors, as we tried to make aggressive swings in situations that were less than ideal.”
The Gauchos look to get back on track, continuing their five game homestand with a match against Stanford this Friday.