On the road for the second match of a three game road trip, the No. 15 UCSB men’s volleyball team lost to MPSF foe USC in straight sets last night, failing once again to capture their first conference victory of the season.
Falling in the first two sets, the Gauchos narrowly dropped a tightly contested third set to end the night with their fourth consecutive loss, the third in a row coming against a top 10 team.
“[USC] didn’t make as many errors as we did,” senior outside hitter Blaine Nielsen said. “When things get tight, we start making some errors. They cut down on the errors and we didn’t.”
Santa Barbara fell to 2-6 (0-4 MPSF) with the loss to USC, and is still in search of its first conference win. After dropping their previous three contests, the No. 4 Trojans won their second in a row to improve to 5-3 (4-3 MPSF).
Southern California captured the first set with relative ease, dispatching the Gauchos with a 25-16 victory behind four kills apiece from senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli and sophomore opposite Tanner Jansen.
Junior setter Oliver Deutschman led UCSB in the first set with 10 assists and three digs. The Gauchos recorded 10 kills, but also committed 10 of their 25 errors in the set. The Trojans, meanwhile, limited their mistake with only seven errors the entire match.
“We need to definitely cut down on the mistakes that we make,” Nielsen said. “It’s not that they beat us, we’re kind of beating ourselves.”
The second set proved similar to the first, as USC outmatched the Gauchos 25-14 to take a 2-0 lead. Freshman middle blocker Robert Feathers recorded four of his team-high 10 blocks in set for the Trojans, while Ciarelli contributed three kills and blocks apiece.
Down 2-0 to USC, the Gauchos came out in the third set matching the Trojans blow for blow before falling 25-21. While UCSB failed to win the set, they certainly gave the Trojans a scare, forcing them to take a timeout after the Gauchos scored three straight points to bring the game to a 21-20 USC lead.
Nielsen, who was second on the team with five kills, felt the team played more efficiently in the third and final set.
“We limited some of the mistakes we made in the first two [sets],” Nielsen said. “This team can compete; we just need to prove it in the game.”
Junior outside hitter Miles Evans contributed five of his team leading 10 kills in the third set for the Gauchos. Evans, who also led the team with eight digs, has led UCSB in kills in six of the team’s seven matches.
The Gauchos’ third set run was fueled by their bench play, particularly in sophomore setter Bryce Miller and freshman opposite Chris Hartig. Miller recorded 11 of his team-high 16 assists in the set, while Hartig recorded four kills, a block and a service ace.
“It’s great, this whole team can play volleyball, it’s good to see the other guys in there,” Nielsen said. “We need them; it’s going to take this whole team to turn this season around for us.”
Ciarelli and Jansen led the Trojans in kills against the Gauchos with 11 and 10 apiece, respectively, while each recorded five blocks. As a unit, Southern California managed 27 blocks in the game, compared to a mere two for a Santa Barbara squad that did not record its first until the third set.
UCSB continues its road trip with a 7 p.m. match at Pepperdine Friday night.