The UCSB men’s volleyball team’s ranking fell from No. 3 to No. 8 after dropping its first two matches in MPSF play against Hawaii. The Gauchos look to rebound against No. 4 BYU this weekend with two matches against the Cougars.
Santa Barbara, now 4-2, traveled to Hawaii over the weekend and didn’t enjoy the Aloha State as much as it would have hoped. On Friday night, the Gauchos lost to the Warriors in a close match that UCSB would like to have back, going down in four sets, 23-25, 23-25, 26-24, 25-27.
“In the first match we didn’t take advantages of their mistakes,” redshirt senior outside hitter Weston Nielsen said. “We gave them the game; we didn’t take care of what we needed to take care of.”
On Sunday, the Gauchos looked to rebound but took another loss in four sets. After suffering injuries in the matches over the weekend, the Gauchos look thinner going into this weekend’s matchups with BYU.
The Gauchos will be without redshirt senior outside hitter Vaun Lennon and redshirt junior opposite Matt Marsh this weekend due to injuries. Redshirt senior outside hitter Kevin Donohue is expected to be available after injuring a finger on a block against Hawaii, while redshirt sophomore outside hitter Jacob Delson, redshirt senior middle blocker Jake Staahl and redshirt junior middle blocker Ryan Hardy will be expected to put up points for the Gauchos.
The Cougars come into this weekend’s matches with a 3-1 record after beating now-No. 9 UCLA twice over the weekend. In the first matchup on Friday, BYU took down the Bruins in four games as sophomore outside hitter Kiril Meretev finished with a career-high 10 kills and an extremely strong .615 hitting percentage to go along with five digs. Sophomore opposite hitter Tim Dobbert led the team with 11 kills and junior setter Tyler Heap had 29 assists in a 3-0 victory.
BYU then beat the Bruins again the next night in four sets, 17-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-15. Sophomore outside hitter Jake Langlois led the team with 14 kills and Dobbert added 13 while senior outside hitter Phil Fuchs and junior middle blocker Michael Hatch both set career-highs in kills with 12 and 8, respectively.
“We know we have to serve well to beat BYU,” junior setter Jonah Seif said. “They’re an older team with a lot of height and experience.”
Langlois, 6’10”, has been a large contributor for the Cougars with his 46 kills and 3.29 kills per set this season. He and Dobbert, also 6’10”, are going to be forces at the pins that the Gauchos will have to be ready for. Redshirt sophomore Joseph Grosh, 6’7”, has played in every set at middle blocker and has a .364 hitting percentage while Hatch, 6’8”, leads the team with a .637 hitting percentage. Senior Jaylen Reyes is one of the best liberos in the country and leads the team with 30 digs this season.
The Gauchos take on BYU Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. in Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of January 21, 2015’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.