The No. 6 UCSB men’s volleyball team never recovered after dropping the first set to No. 13 Pepperdine at the Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu, eventually losing the match in straight sets 27-29, 16-25 and 21-25. The loss drops the Gauchos to 14-13 overall and 11-10 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit] “We were not competitive any time during the match tonight,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “It’s a strange thing, sometimes we’re competitive and we play well, and other times we’re not. We need to figure that out before the playoffs or we’re in trouble.”

The Gauchos had the chance to snatch the momentum in the first set when they took the lead at 19-18, but the Waves picked up their play to win the set despite UCSB tying up the score at 25-25. At 28-27, the Waves deflected an attack from sophomore middle blocker Dylan Davis to take the set.

The first-set loss seemed to take the life out of the Gauchos, as Pepperdine dominated the second set and closed out the match by winning the third with a Matt Pollock service ace.

Senior Cullen Irons led the Gauchos with 17 kills, three digs and one block, while senior setter Vince Devany continued his climb up the UCSB career assist leader board, adding 44 to bring his season total to 1,072.

While the Gauchos have shown flashes of dominance this season, such as the win over No. 3 Stanford last week at home, consistency has been a real problem. Just one game before beating Stanford, UCSB was upset by No. 15 Pacific — a team they had beaten twice already this season.

“The win against Stanford was nice,” McLaughlin said. “But right before that was a bad loss to Pacific. We lost again that way tonight. I’m really not sure what’s going on in our guys’ heads, because it’s not a physical thing.”

UCSB wraps up its regular season against the No. 1 USC before heading into the MPSF tournament. USC already beat the Gauchos in straight sets in Santa Barbara on Jan. 26 and won 15 of their last 16.

“We’ll have to play a heck of a lot better than we did tonight to even compete with them,” McLaughlin said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country.”