UCSB earned its first win of the season on Saturday night, beating UC San Diego 3-2 in thrilling fashion.
“The monkey is definitely off our back,” junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel said.”
Santa Barbara improved to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play in the second match this year between the two teams, with the Tritons trumping the Gauchos in their first meeting at the Santa Barbara Invitational.
“It feels good to play them again and get the win this time,” Menzel said.
San Diego won the first set 30-26 before the Gauchos answered in the second with a 30-24 victory. The two teams then went on to trade the next two sets, forcing a deciding fifth. It was the second match in a row and the fourth time this season that the Gauchos have gone to five sets. They were previously 0-3 in those contests.
Playing five games is nothing new for the Gauchos, who played nine matches last year that were decided in a fifth set. They were 3-6 in those contests.
“We struggled with that last year,” Menzel said of his team’s tendency to go to a fifth game. “Once we get over the ups and downs, we can start to put teams away in three and four.”
The fifth set ended dramatically, with the Gauchos persevering 15-13. On the final play, UCSD’s Frank Fritsch’s spike found the arms of Santa Barbara’s sophomore outside hitter Blaine Nielson and junior middle blocker Scott Slaughter, who sent the ball back into the Triton’s side of the court for the win.
“It definitely feels good to come out on the other side of a finish like that,” Menzel said.
In the match, Menzel led the Gauchos with a match-high 25 kills. Junior opposite Cullen Irons added 14 of his own and junior setter Vince Devany dished out 63 assists.
Up next for the Gauchos is a home match against UCLA. This upcoming match marks the last home game for Santa Barbara before a three-game road trip that features trips to Irvine, Stanford and Pacific.
“This next road trip will have a lot to do with the way we are going to finish our season. I’m confident our guys are starting to believe in each other and ourselves, and that we are capable of coming out with two or three wins on this trip,” Menzel said.
Before they hit the road, UCSB will stay at home and gun for its first winning streak of the season.
“Playing at home with the crowd behind us is important. It’s a big seventh man out there,” Menzel said.
First serve is set for tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in Rob Gym.