The #14 UCSB men’s volleyball team had a roller coaster of a Spring Break, with ups and plenty of downs through the many games they played this past week. The Gauchos (9-14 overall, 6-12 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) went 2-3 over the past three weeks and enter April on a two-game losing streak.
The first opponent the Gauchos faced was #12 USC (12-13 overall, 9-10 MPSF). UCSB was able to upset the Trojans 30-25, 30-23, 30-27. As a team, the Gauchos had their most productive match on the offensive side, tallying a team hitting percentage of .366 through the entire match. Freshman opposite Jeff Menzel was the only UCSB player to notch double-digit kills with 21, and hit a career-high .529. Another Gaucho having a career night was junior middle blocker Matt Thobe, whose two aces and six blocks were personal bests and led all players on the court. The Gauchos out blocked the Trojans 12 to three.
Following the upset win, the Gauchos faced #5 Pepperdine (12-8 overall, 11-8 MPSF). The Waves swept over the Gauchos with scores of 30-23, 30-25 and 35-33, taking the season series from the Gauchos. The Waves ended with a .327 hitting percentage, while the Gauchos were stuck at .278. It was the Pepperdine defense that determined the game, as the Waves out-blocked the Gauchos 12.5 to six. The Gauchos had three players in double-digit kills, with Menzel leading the charge with 19, followed by senior middle Theo Brunner and junior outside Mike Runkle with 12 and 10 respectively.
After the loss, the Gauchos took a break from MPSF play as they welcomed Cal Baptist (10-11 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). In the sweep, UCSB held the Lancers to very minimal offensive production, such as in the first game, where the Lancers were held to a .000 percentage. Overall, Cal Baptist hit .200, while the Gauchos hit .381. Menzel once again had a double-digit game, ending with 12 kills, while senior outside Phil Mathews finished with 10 kills. The Gauchos also got a much-needed boost at the net with the return of freshman middle blocker Scott Slaughter, who suffered an injury a couple weeks back. Slaughter hit a match high .727 and had career-high seven blocks in his return.
The Gauchos took to the road in an important two match swing with #4 Brigham Young University (19-4 overall, 14-4 MPSF) this past weekend, losing both times. In the first match, the Gauchos were close to an upset, taking the match to five games. However, the Cougars hit .550 in the fifth game to close the match 3-2. Senior outside Ivan Perez of BYU led all players with 27 kills. Menzel continued his trend of double-digit kills, ending the match with 19. Runkle had a career night for the Gauchos as he tied his career-high 15 kills, and hit a team and career best .480.
In the second match, the Gauchos were swept 30-20, 30-28 and 30-28. BYU freshman outside Jeff Robinson had the match-high 18 kills and a .517 percentage. Menzel ended his streak of double-digit kills, as no Gaucho reached double digits.