The #8 UCSB men’s volleyball team (6-5 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, 6-8 overall) fell short in its quest to complete a second three-game winning streak yesterday night, falling to #6 UCLA 3-1. The Bruins were too tough on defense and serving, defeating the injury-plagued Gauchos for the second time this season.

“The mental stuff wasn’t there for us. … We had too many errors,” sophomore outside hitter Blaine Nielsen said.

The first game belonged to UCLA as the Bruins dominated the Gauchos for most of the way. Santa Barbara made it interesting with a 3-0 run at the end of the set but eventually fell 30-28.

Early in the second game, Gaucho fans had a scare when junior outside hitter
Jeff Menzel injured his left knee. Menzel went to the bench and did not return for the rest of the match.

“We have a two week break so I’m pretty optimistic. … Hopefully I can rest it up and be OK,” Menzel said after the game.

With the MPSF kill leader and reigning MPSF player of the week sidelined, the Bruins capitalized. Down 13-12, UCLA won four straight points to take the lead at 16-13. A kill from junior opposite Cullen Irons brought the Gauchos within one at 16-15, but Santa Barbara could not close the gap and trailed by as many as six late in the set, ultimately falling 30-25.

“It’s terrible to lose a guy like Jeff. He just influences the game in so many ways,” Nielsen said.

When they came out for the third set, the Gauchos did not look like the team we have grown accustomed to seeing on the court. For no apparent reason, Irons and starting senior opposite Jake Rosener joined the injured Menzel and freshman middle blocker Dylan Davis on the bench.

Facing steep odds down 2-0 and with four of its top five attack leaders on the bench, UCSB rallied and came out on fire. Leading by as many as nine at 19-10, the Gauchos dominated the Bruins to win the third set. Up 28-19, a kill by freshman middle blocker Grant “The Goose” Goswiller followed by a service ace from junior outside hitter Todd Travis brought the final score to 30-19.

Travis stepped up in the first action of his UCSB career, posting 11 kills to tie him with Irons for the team lead.

“Our bench guys are always ready to play,” Nielsen said.

In the fourth set, the experience and poise of the UCLA regulars outlasted UCSB. Never trailing in the set, the Bruins went on to win 30-24.