After what seemed like a perfect start to their season, the No. 8 UCSB men’s volleyball team falls to No. 3 UCLA during its first road trip and televised game of this season. The Gauchos lost for the first time in their past four games, getting swept by the Bruins 3-0, which snapped their three-game winning streak.
The loss put the Gauchos at 3-1 overall on the season and drops them to 2-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Bruins advance to 5-1 overall and an undefeated 2-0 in conference play.
“We came out a little bit timid, they have a pretty big blocking line up,” sophomore setter Jonah Seif said. “They served well, which can sometimes make our offense predictable, and then they would follow with a big block up.”
Both teams entered the game with the third place ranking in the MPSF, but the Bruins were the aggressors early in the match and proved to be the better team as the game wore on.
UCLA started the game on a strong note, taking the first set with a score of 25-12.
The second set appeared to be a similar story, starting out in UCLA’s favor with an ace serve. The Gauchos eventually gained some momentum and took a three-point lead of 11-8 before UCLA’s Head Coach John Speraw called for a timeout.
“For us especially, it is important for us to serve well early on and put their offense in trouble so we can continue to get points to gain those leads,” junior middle blocker Jake Staahl said.
Following the timeout UCLA jumped out back on top with an offensive attack totaling eight points in comparison to the Gaucho’s four. Aside from UCLA’s aggressive offense, the Gauchos aided their lead by making a high number of errors. During the second set the Gauchos attack was marked by 13 balls hit out of bounds and only five blocks against them. This second match was a closer contest than the first, but in the end the Bruins pulled away with a 25-22 lead.
The third set proved to be an entirely different game for the Gauchos. Head Coach Rick McLaughlin made some big changes early on by switching out two starters in junior outside hitter Austin Kingi and sophomore middle blocker Ryan Hardy with junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen and Staahl. This was only Staahl’s second game of the season, a key player that has been out with the flu.
Staahl entered the game on a strong note earning the Gauchos an ace serve right off the start. This momentum continued forward and the Gauchos scored four points in a row, giving them a 5-1 lead early on. This lead continued throughout the third until consistent Gaucho errors allowed the Bruins to tie the game at 22-22.
“It was a very similar situation to the Stanford match after game three because we were coming from behind. We took the same approach that we did in Saturdays match by going out there and serving tough,” Seif said. “After that good things started to happen for us, but at the end of the game we just made too many errors”
The third set went into a dramatic back and forth overtime, until eventually a serving error made by Nielsen and an attacking error by junior outside hitter Evan Licht gave UCLA a 29-17 win and a 3-0 sweep.
UCSB’s next game is this Saturday against UC Irvine in Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of January 22, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.