Playing just one day after its worst loss of the season against Princeton University, the No. 12 UCSB men’s volleyball team rebounded with a better performance against No. 2 UC Irvine last night at Rob Gym. In three closely contested sets, the Gauchos played wire to wire with the defending national champions, but came up short each time, losing three sets to none.

“[It’s a] tough loss but we played really well; we’ve been in a rut recently and we just stayed together as a team,” freshman setter Jonah Seif said. “We had a lot of fire, a lot of energy. We competed very well. We had an opportunity to win all those games.”

With the loss, UCSB now finds itself on a season-high six-game losing streak and has not won a game since Jan. 9. The Gauchos end the month of January with a 3-7 record overall and are 1-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, still in last place in the league. UCI improves to 8-3 on the season and 5-3 in conference, extending its win streak to four.

Finding itself down by as many as six points at one point in the match, the Gauchos began to click offensively. With the score at 19-16 in favor of the Anteaters, Santa Barbara scored the next four points to take the lead but could not hold on and lost a close first set 25-23.

After losing team captain, senior middle blocker Dylan Davis, to an injury after the first set, Santa Barbara still came out with better defense in the second set.

“We stayed in the moment and we didn’t give up runs. That’s the biggest thing that’s been hurting us is giving up four, five point runs at a time,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “I don’t think we gave up more than two at any time and that’s pretty hard to do against the defending national championship.”

With match point in favor of the Gauchos, UCI took advantage of crucial Santa Barbara errors and took the lead at 26-25. Errors kept the Gauchos from winning as an attack error by sophomore opposite Matt Marsh handed the set to Irvine.

Still showing resiliency despite being down 2-0, the Gauchos traded point for point with UCI in the third set and were tied at 24-24. It was a back-and-forth battle until Irvine scored two straight points to win 28-26 and sweep the Gauchos.

Despite the loss, UCSB still showed signs of promise and will try to carry over the momentum earned from its performance against the Anteaters into its remaining games.

“Knowing that this team is a really good team, it gives us a lot of confidence,” senior outside hitter Miles Evans said. “We can take what happened tonight and really put it on the teams that aren’t as good and we think we can really push it on the teams that are in our league.”

UCSB next plays Friday against No. 13 UC San Diego.

A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 31st, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.