With a few tweaks to the starting lineup, the #6 Gauchos dropped a lead early in the match and lost to Pacific on Thursday night 3-2 (20-25, 25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 15-13). UCSB looks to bounce back in the last home match of the year versus defending national champion Stanford tonight at 7 p.m. in Rob Gym.
[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]Junior outside hitter Blaine Nielsen and senior opposite Todd Travis started the match for UCSB last night, and the Gauchos came out swinging to win the first game. But Pacific capitalized on UCSB mistakes to earn a victory in a close second game. The Tigers again scored late crucial points to win the third game by the score of 25-23.
“We lacked focus tonight. We gave up a ton of free points,” UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We need to straighten that out or we will have a tough time in the playoffs. They were complacent playing a team at the bottom of the league. We didn’t do any particular skill well. But credit to Pacific, they played well tonight. We have some things to figure out, and we got a real good team coming in tomorrow. I hope this wakes us up.”
After sitting on the bench for the first three games, Gaucho seniors Cullen Irons and Trey Valbuena entered the match to start the fourth. The usual starters energized UCSB, and the Gauchos handedly won the next game to tie the match. But UCSB could not carry over the momentum into the final fifth game, and Pacific ultimately earned a match victory.
Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Hughes put up a match-high 26 kills for Pacific. Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel led the Gauchos with 20 kills, and senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter added 11 kills with a hitting percentage of .588. The Gaucho loss drops UCSB to 13-12 overall and 10-9 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“We’ve been resilient all year long. Tonight, we totally switched up our lineup,” Pacific Head Coach Joe Wortmann said. “We came out with a whole new lineup and only practiced for a few days. I’m very happy with the team. We’ve played really well this year. We are the underdogs, so that may have been to our advantage. They started an odd lineup as well.”
In their last home match of the season, the UCSB men’s volleyball team hosts #3 Stanford, who is riding high after a three-set victory over #13 Pepperdine. First serve for tonight’s match is set for 7 p.m. in Rob Gym.