After a mid-season stretch where it looked like the UCSB men’s volleyball team was hitting its stride, the Gauchos have now lost five straight matches and are marred in their longest losing streak of the season.
“We are working hard in practice like always, it’s just disappointing when the results don’t reflect that,” junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel said.
Two consecutive losses on the road to BYU this past weekend have left Santa Barbara with a 7-10 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation record — good for 9th place. Down one game to Long Beach State in the win column, the Gauchos will have to dig deep for the remainder of the season to finish among the top eight for an automatic bid for the postseason conference tournament.
“The standings have been in all of our minds for the last few weeks. It’s going to come down to the wire and we need to pull out some clutch wins in some upcoming games,” Menzel said.
Nagging injuries to senior middle blocker Sam Moisenco and junior opposite Cullen Irons have contributed to Santa Barbara’s recent struggles. Both are starters and major contributors to the team’s success of both ends. In his first season as a regular starter, Irons is second on the team in kills.
“We are hoping that we can get some guys healthy to help us make this last push at the end of our season,” Menzel said.
Inconsistency is nothing new for this enigma of a squad that has the potential to win and lose to any team on a given night.
“It’s frustrating when as a team, everyone knows we should be getting better results. We have just been underachieving lately, and now we are in a position where we have to win to survive,” junior middle blocker Scott Slaughter said.
Santa Barbara appeared to have found a consistent attack in February, posting a 5-3 record that followed a three-game road winning streak to close out January. Furthermore, heading into its match with USC on March 5, Santa Barbara was riding a new four-game winning streak.
“We are making far too many errors, especially in clutch situations where we need to win a point,” Slaughter said.
Over the losing streak, Santa Barbara has hit the ball uncharacteristically poorly. Against Pepperdine on March 13, the Gaucho offense was stifled by the blocking defense of the Waves, which recorded a whopping 25.5 blocks and held UCSB to a .167 hitting percentage in a 3-2 victory.
The two game series against BYU over the weekend provided much of the same for the Gauchos. The Cougars out-blocked Santa Barbara 43 to 14.5 and held them to .164 and .173 hitting percentages, respectively to win both matches 3-1.
“As a team, we are getting too predictable and teams can study film and know what we are trying to do offensively,” Slaughter said. “We need to be able to adapt and come up with a new plan of attack.”