Comeback Bid Falls Short, No. 10 UC Santa Barbara Loses to UC San Diego
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Despite a thrilling comeback from two sets down, the 10th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team narrowly fell short in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play Friday, losing 3-2 against No. 15 UC San Diego at the Thunderdome. Scores were 30-22, 30-24, 30-32, 23-30, and 15-13 in favor of the Tritons.
UCSB fell to 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the MPSF, while UC San Diego improved to 4-5 and 2-4. It was just the third time in 26 meetings that the Gauchos lost to the Tritons.
UCSB's Jeff Menzel led the match in kills with 25, notching nine of those in the third set. Setter Vince Devany's 65 assists and middle blocker Scott Slaughter's 10 blocks were both career-highs.
UCSD's Frank Fritsch led the team in kills with 23, while libero Eric Leserman had a match-high 17 digs. An impressive .727 hitting percentage in the final set sealed the victory for the Tritons.
The Gauchos got off to a slow start, hitting just .097 through the first two sets of the match. Aided by seven blocks each from Phil Bannan and Adrian Guthals, the Triton front row refused to let the Gaucho attack gain momentum. Bannan and Guthals each finished with nine blocks.
Sensing a need to change dynamics, UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin switched Andy McGuire to setter and inserted Mike Runkle at libero.
"We switched Andy to setter to give our team a bit more competitiveness," said McLaughlin. "With Mike (Runkle) out there, we were able to pass much better from then on."
Devany came back in to replace McGuire after he suffered an injury early in the third set, and the Gauchos were able to rally and win the frame after a Jake Rosener kill and a triple block gave Santa Barbara the 32-30 edge.
Trey Valbuena served four straight points in the fourth set to put UCSB up 25-18. A big kill from Menzel would give the Gauchos the set and tie the match at 2-2.
In the fifth set, the teams traded points and it was tied at 6-6. However, two attack errors by the Gauchos allowed the momentum to swing towards the Tritons, who ran the score to 12-8. UCSB made it exciting once again by collecting three straight points on match point to come within one at 13-14. The Tritons took a timeout and came back with a kill from Calvin Ross to end the match.
"We've got to leave tonight behind us because we can't dwell on it and expect to be ready for tomorrow night," said McLaughlin. "If we play like we did in the last couple of games, we'll be fine tomorrow."
The Gauchos remain at home Saturday to host No. 7 Long Beach State at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome. Tickets are available via walk-up at the Thunderdome box office.
Article courtesy of UC Santa Barbara athletics.