The #14 UCSB men’s volleyball team (9-16 overall, 6-14 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) suffered its fourth loss in a row this past Saturday, as the #9 UC Irvine Anteaters (14-13 overall, 10-10 in the MPSF) swept the Gauchos, ending UCSB’s postseason hopes and clinching a spot in the postseason for Irvine.
The Anteaters opened up game one strong, taking the 7-2 lead all before the first timeout. However, the Gauchos came back to take the lead 30-29. That would be all for the Gauchos, as the Anteaters scored two consecutive kills to take game one 32-30.
“We had a lot of fire at the end where it mattered,” junior middle blocker Matt Thobe said. “We haven’t been able to make runs like that in a while, and it was good to see. [But] we always had trouble finishing, and that was the difference.”
The Anteaters went on to win games two and three by scores of 30-27 and 30-20 respectively. Game three was where Irvine had its best offensive game, as it hit at a .538 clip, compared to the Gauchos’ .261. Defensively, the Anteaters outblocked the Gauchos, six team blocks to five team blocks. Senior middle blocker Aaron Harrell had a match-high five blocks, leading both teams. Offensively, it was a two-man effort with junior opposite Jon Stellar and freshman outside Jordan DuFault tied for the lead in kills for Irvine with 15 kills apiece. DuFault also led the Anteaters with an attack percentage of .542.
“[DuFault] definitely evened out [Irvine’s] offense a lot,” Thobe said. “They are a team that we scouted as being [Jon] Stellar-heavy, and when they strutted out DuFault and he was effective, that hurt us. It wasn’t what we were looking for, and that threw us off. He definitely picked apart our defense.”
The Gauchos were once again led by freshman opposite Jeff Menzel, who had 16 kills. Junior outside Mike Runkle had a team-high .471 attack percentage. The Gauchos committed 16 service errors and 18 hitting errors in total throughout the match.