After a resilient comeback against #15 UC San Diego fell short on Friday, a downtrodden UCSB men’s volleyball team faced a #7 Long Beach squad that took no time in avenging an early season sweep with a straight set victory over the home team. The disappointing weekend drops Santa Barbara to 3-7 overall, with a 1-6 record in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Things were not looking good for the Gauchos out of the gate, as a hungry Triton team went to work early, taking down the first two sets with ease, 30-22 and 30-24. With the help of some fantastic blocking in the middle — including nine blocks from their oversized setter — UCSD was able to slow sophomore outside hitter and MPSF kill leader Jeff Menzel through the first two frames.
With a straight set loss looming, UCSB was able to turn it around late in the third set to win 32-30 before handily taking set number four 30-23, led by a resurgent Menzel who finished with a match-high 25 kills. As good as Menzel’s offensive showing was, the Santa Barbara defense is what really set precedence in their comeback bid, as sophomore middle blocker Scott Slaughter notched a career high 10 blocks, while junior middle blocker Sam Moisenco and freshman outside hitter Blaine Nielson went for eight blocks apiece. All of their efforts would not result in the ultimate goal, as multiple attack errors in the fifth and final set gave the match to the visiting Tritons.
“I thought we had it for sure, but a couple points were blown and the next thing you know the win snuck away from us,” Slaughter said.
To add injury to insult, starting sophomore libero Andy McGuire went down with a sprained ankle in the third set. Fortunate for the Gauchos, senior outside hitter Mike Runkle was able to adequately fill the void with a lifetime of experience playing the position under his belt.
“Andy’s a great passer but Mike stepped up his game and did a great job playing his old position,” Slaughter said.
Playing without their McGuire, their season digs leader with 80 through 10 games, Santa Barbara could not take down the 49ers in the back end of their weekend twofer, falling in straight sets 30-28, 30-20 and 36-34. Though Long Beach had the advantage of playing with junior opposite Dean Bittner — its best player and team kills leader — in the second meeting between the two teams, it was self enforced errors that once again would spell the Gauchos’ downfall.
“We should have beat them [Long Beach],” Slaughter said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with hitting and serving errors, and were just too inconsistent to come out with the win.”