UCSB (7-5 overall, 5-4 MPSF) came out firing on the road against UCLA (8-6, 2-5) on Wednesday night, taking down the Bruins 3-1 at Los Angeles’ Pauley Pavilion.
“We were consistent,” Senior opposite Cullen Irons said. “That’s what we have been working on since we got ready for the season. We didn’t have a serving error in the first set. We’re feeling good right now.”
Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel led all players with 17 kills, and senior outside hitter Trey Valbuena and Irons each added 10 more to earn a Gaucho victory at UCLA for the first time since 2002. Senior setter Vince Devany commanded the offense with 44 assists on the night.
The Gauchos dominated the first game, winning 25-11. The second set was more competitive, culminating at a 23-23 tie late into the frame. After trading points, a block on set point by Cullen Irons secured a 2-0 lead in the match for UCSB. After dropping the third set, UCSB regrouped to take a close fourth and final set on one of Menzel’s aces.
“We let them get away with one, but we finished strong,” Irons said. “Our team is friends with all those guys so we were chatting before the game. But everything changes when we hit the court.”
Junior Kyle Caldwell led the Bruins with 16 kills. Junior Thomas Amberg helped out with nine kills and three blocks. With another loss to a conference opponent, UCLA currently finds itself in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
The two teems will meet once again this Friday night in a rematch at Rob Gym. The Bruins have an upper hand in the history of matches between the two schools, but the Gauchos are confident after back-to-back wins.
“Friday is huge,” senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter said. “If we get that win we are in a great spot in the league. We expect to see a similar game plan from them so it’s up to us to come out ready for battle.”