After a devastating five-set loss on the road at #4 Cal State Northridge Wednesday night, the UCSB men’s volleyball team remains a half game out of a playoff spot in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) with two league games remaining.
After a Long Beach State loss on the same night — the 49ers are the eighth place team in conference — a win against the Matadors would have moved the Gauchos into the playoff picture. LBSU has three conference matches remaining, including a match with #7 UCLA tonight.
Santa Barbara stormed into Northridge determined and took the first set from the Matadors, 30-27. CSUN answered in the second and third to take a 2-1 set lead. Needing to take a set to prolong the game, the Gauchos forced consecutive Matador hitting errors late in the fourth frame and eventually won the set 30-28 on a kill from senior opposite Jake Rosener to force a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth set, UCSB went on a three-point run to take the lead at 11-10 before giving up a four-point run of its own to Northridge. Deflated and down 14-11, Santa Barbara couldn’t forge another comeback and fell to the Matadors 15-12.
In the loss, Santa Barbara was led by outside hitter Jeff Menzel’s 14 kills and 11 from junior opposite Cullen Irons. However, the Gauchos could not keep up with the offensive attack of CSUN that finished with five players in double-digit kills.
Tonight the Gauchos will take a break from MPSF league play as they host Penn State. While the goal is always to win, the non-conference match against the Nittany Lions will allow Santa Barbara to prepare for its last two league games, at home against Hawaii on April 16 and 17 — virtual must-wins at this point.
Down but not yet out, UCSB is hoping to build some momentum before they clash with the Warriors.