UC Irvine’s 6-5 redshirt freshman opposite Carson Clark from Santa Barbara hit a career-high of 24 of the team’s 59 kills on 32 attacks and four errors for a .625 hitting percentage on the way to a 30-23, 30-25, 26-30, 30-17 win over the #9 Gauchos at Robertson Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
“Carson’s on fire tonight. He must be hitting 1.000,” referee Rick Olmstead whispered to the media panel after the second game in the UCSB men’s volleyball loss to #5 Irvine on Wednesday. Irvine’s second kill leader, sophomore outside hitter Jordan DuFault, hit 11 on a .156 hitting percentage.
The Gauchos, coming off a 3-0 shutout over #4 Long Beach State, hit 22 service errors to the Anteater’s 15. Irvine also had a cumulative .404 hitting percentage compared to UCSB’s .205. They also had 26 block attempts compared to the Gaucho’s eight.
“They’re a big team,” Gaucho Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “If we don’t pass at the level we’re supposed to, it makes their blockers look good.”
Sophomore Jeff Menzel led the Gauchos with 21 kills but hit eight service errors and finished the match with a .174 hitting percentage.
“They beat us in their passing, they beat us in their serving; mentally, we broke down,” Menzel said. “And they just were pretty much the better team throughout the whole game. The third game we started to bounce back, but they didn’t crack.”
Gaucho sophomore setter Vince Devany tallied a game high of 51 assists, nearly matching his career high of 57. Junior opposite Jake Rosener led the team in efficiency, hitting five kills on seven attempts and two errors for a .429 hitting percentage. For the Anteaters, senior setter Ryan Ammerman tallied 49 assists.
“For our team, Vinny [Vince Devany] was doing well, our middles were doing great, Jake Rosener was hitting the ball really well,” Menzel said. “Mentally, it just wasn’t there.”
The Gauchos never led in the first set, hitting eight of their 13 service errors. In the second set, the Gauchos led 3-2, but Irvine tied the score and went ahead 3-4 after sophomore middleblocker Kevin Wynne hit a big block off a Gaucho attack, and UCSB never regained the lead. In the third, the lead changed six times and Irvine tied the score 12 times, but the Gauchos pulled out the set. In the fourth, UCSB led at 3-2 and 5-4, but Irvine went on an 8-2 run at 15-22 to end the match.
“We actually started playing better,” McLaughlin said. “If we keep learning and improving, we’ll be there by the middle of the season.”
UCSB will play their next match against UCLA in Westwood on Jan. 16 at 7 p.m.