On the road for the final two regular season games of the year, the UCSB men’s volleyball team dropped a pair of tough matches, eliminating the Gauchos from the playoffs.
Needing two victories to qualify for the playoffs, UCSB fell to Stanford and Pacific on Friday and Saturday nights to end its season and miss the postseason after last year’s squad was National Runner-Up.
“It’s definitely a bummer to lose the last two games of the year, especially coming off a sweep of Hawaii,” freshman outside hitter Kevin Donohue said. “Stanford really played well and I definitely give [them] credit in that match.”
UCSB finished the season tied with Pacific for 10th place in the MPSF with a 7-19 overall record (5-17 conference). Northridge clinched the eighth and final playoff spot with a victory over Pepperdine on Thursday night to officially eliminate the Gauchos.
“To miss the playoffs is a terrible feeling, especially to a team like Northridge that we played three times and we beat them twice, and there they are in the playoffs,” Donohue said. “Only a couple games that we lost this year kept us out of the playoffs. We need to learn from that.”
Saturday’s loss to Pacific was a heartbreaking one for the Gauchos as they squandered a 2-0 lead to lose in five sets. Donohue posted a career-high 22 kills in the defeat, matching a Gaucho season high set by junior middle blocker Dylan Davis on Feb. 29 against Northridge.
“It was definitely my best match of the year,” Donohue said. “[Junior setter] Oliver [Deutschman] was putting the ball in a perfect position for me to hit, and we found a rhythm together.”
No. 13 Pacific improved to 8-20 overall (5-17 MPSF) with the victory coming after a 3-1 loss to No. 3 UCLA on Friday night. The Gauchos overpowered Pacific in the first two sets by scores of 25-20 and 26-24 before dropping three straight: 18-25, 23-25 and 12-15.
Junior outside hitter Miles Evans recorded 17 kills while senior outside hitter Blaine Nielsen added a career-high 13 to go along with 16 digs in his final match as a Gaucho. Deutschman’s 60 assists — a personal season high — were the most posted by a Gaucho this season.
“[Saturday] night we came out, and we were on fire the first two games and basically found a rhythm,” Donohue said. “It was kind of a tough loss there, but we kept our heads high. I think these five-game matches where we were up 2-0, we’re going to learn from these losses that we had.”
Friday night’s match at No. 5 Stanford resulted in a sweep for the Cardinal by a mark of 25-19, 25-14, 25-20. Stanford tied for second in the MPSF with a 17-5 conference record (20-6 overall) and will be the number two seed in the conference tournament next weekend.
Senior outside hitter Brad Lawson led the Cardinal in kills with 16, while sophomore outside hitter Steven Irvin added 14.
Donohue led the Gauchos in kills once again Friday, recording 10 in addition to a team-high five digs. Evans added eight kills and four digs for UCSB.
“I think we’re going to be motivated to come out next year,” Donohue said. “It’s going to be fun, we have a lot of returners.”