This weekend was a tale of two teams for the UCSB men’s volleyball team, as the Gauchos were swept off their own court by Stanford on Friday, before bringing out the brooms against Pacific on Saturday night.
Entering the weekend, the Gauchos (2-6 overall, 1-4 in the MPSF) found themselves buried in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings and still winless in conference play. With a weekend split against MPSF foes, the Gauchos continued to learn how to work together as a team and create a winning strategy.
“This weekend, we changed a couple philosophies; a little bit in practice and in films and we experimented with the lineup,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “[The Stanford game] was very disappointing, but this game against UOP made me happy; we definitely played much better.”
Despite a 21-kill effort by freshman outside-hitter Jeff Menzel, the Gauchos saw their losing streak hit four games after a 30-28, 30-26, 30-26 heartbreaking loss to #6 Stanford (6-3, 3-3 MPSF). The first two games presented the Gauchos with legitimate chances for victory, but the team managed to blow leads of four or greater in each one.
“The first two games we had them; then we just gave them away. We won it before 20 [points], then gave it away after 20,” Preston said.
The outside and opposite hitting combination of Matt Ceran and Evan Romero proved to be too much for UCSB, as each tallied 17 kills apiece. Senior middle blocker Theo Brunner recorded eight kills by way of a .727 hitting percentage in the losing effort for the Gauchos.
Just one night after the Stanford loss, UCSB came back with a vengeance dismantling the Pacific Tigers (0-8, 0-6 MPSF) in straight sets 30-26, 30-21, 30-22.
“UOP didn’t put up a whole lot of struggle,” Preston said. “We experimented with a couple players, and Menzel had a really good match along with [sophomore middle blocker Sam] Moisenco, who had six kills and five blocks.”
Both Moisenco and senior outside hitter Michael Fisher, who posted five kills along with a team-high 10 digs, answered the call put out by their coach who asked for someone other that Menzel and Brunner to step in and contribute. The Gauchos implemented a new blocking strategy that allowed for more three-man walls ultimately resulting in an 11.5 to 5 blocking advantage in favor of the Gauchos.
The Gauchos look to use this victory as the catalyst to hopefully kick-start the team’s first winning streak of the season.
“We’ve got a lot to do, we have to improve still, but it was a step forward at least,” Preston said. “Hopefully we can get better and better.”
The Gauchos will finish up their five-game home stand with two matches in two days against Hawaii this Friday and Saturday, both at Rob Gym.