Playing in their first match in two weeks, the No. 15 Gauchos were defeated by the top-ranked UC Irvine Anteaters for the second time this month, falling in straight sets, 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-22).
Friday night’s loss was the seventh in a row for UCSB, which now brings up the rear in the MPSF standings at 5-17, 3-14.
UC Irvine, winners of ten straight, improved to 19-3, 15-3 and maintained their top spot in the conference table.
The Gauchos were led by freshman opposite Matt Marsh, whose play has improved dramatically as of late. After recording hitting percentages of .045 or lower in five of his first six matches, he has recorded clips of .304 and .407 in his last two.
Marsh led all Gauchos, and tied with UC Irvine’s Jeremy Dejno, for the match lead with his 14 kills.
Junior outside hitter Miles Evans turned in a seven-kill, three-dig performance. Middle blockers Dylan Davis and Ryan Thompson had three blocks apiece to tie for the match-lead with a trio of Anteaters.
As a team, the Anteaters hit over .300 in each game and outserved the Gauchos by finishing with a 5-0 ace advantage.
Carson Clark picked up 11 kills for UC Irvine, while libero Michael Brinkley led all players with eight digs.
UCSB will be right back in action on Saturday night, when they will travel to face UC San Diego. Next week, the Gauchos will have their final two home matches of the season- playing host to visiting Hawai’i.