Forced to play in the Rec Cen due to rain in Rob Gym, the #4 Gauchos fell to #6 Long Beach State (9-6 overall, 8-4 MPSF) on Wednesday night by a score of 3-1. With consecutive conference losses, UCSB now stands at 10-8 overall and 8-7 in the MPSF.
[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignright” width=”250″][/media-credit]“They served really well and our passing was off,” senior outside Cullen Irons said. “That allowed them to set up blocks, and their defense was good. They had everything going. Long Beach is a good team.”
Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel led all players with 15 kills, with senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter adding 12 kills of his own with a hitting percentage of .450. Vince Devany put up 45 assists, but UCSB was unable to capitalize on any late-game opportunities.
The Gauchos came out firing, working to an early 8-3 lead in the first game. The 49ers rallied back to force a tie at 16-16 before taking the lead behind the play of outside hitter Brad Hemmerling. With the help of a couple UCSB errors, Long Beach State took the first set 25-21.
UCSB regrouped in the second set, keeping pressure on Long Beach throughout. Slaughter stepped up with key blocks and three kills to go with a serving ace. The team survived a late run by the 49ers to take the set 25-23 on a Menzel kill, tying the match at one set apiece.
“Scotty came out firing,” Irons said. “He had a lot of energy out there. Unfortunately, not all of us brought that intensity including myself. I couldn’t hit my way out of a paper bag. They had my number tonight.”
The 49ers won the next game easily, 25-17, but the Gauchos fought back and forth with the 49ers throughout the fourth set. Tied at 23-23, Long Beach recorded two consecutive points to secure a 3-1 victory in the Rec Cen. Limiting Irons to just seven kills on 26 attempts, the 49er defense proved to be the story of the match.
UCSB has a chance to regain their momentum at home on Friday night versus Cal State Northridge, with first serve set for 7 p.m. back in Rob Gym.