Gauchos lose heartbreaker to UCLA in five sets

The UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team was within reach of its second upset in less than a week, but fell short against No. 10 UCLA, 3-2, Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. Set scores were 30-19, 23-30, 24-30, 30-25, and 15-11 in favor of the Bruins.

Jeff Menzel paced the Gauchos (1-5, 1-2), collecting a .345 (25-5-58) hitting percentage on the night while notching 25 kills, seven digs, and four blocks. Cullen Irons was second on the team with 20 kills. It marks the second time two Gauchos have had 20-kill performances in one match this season and it is also the second time Irons has been one dig away from his second double-double of the season. He also fell one dig short against UC San Diego on January 16th. Andy McGuire scooped a match-high 13 digs while Vince Devany dished out 53 assists.

Garret Muagututia (17), Jack Polales (13), Thomas Amberg (12) all totaled double-digit kill totals for the Bruins (2-4, 1-2). Kevin Ker had 40 assists. Tom Hastings had 12 digs.

After the Bruins won the first set, UCSB won eight of the first 10 points of the second set to cruise to a 30-23 victory. With the Gauchos leading in the third set, UCLA’s Winston Dunlap connected with a kill to bring the match within four at 27-23. Menzel answered with a kill of his own before a Muagututia error extended the Gaucho lead back to six at 29-23. Irons missed on his next swing attempt, but connected on the next play to give the Gauchos a 30-24 set victory and a 2-1 lead in the match.

However, UCLA would answer in the fourth and fifth sets, sending the Gauchos home with their fourth five-set loss of the season. No. 11 UCSB returns to the court January 22nd as the face defending champion, No. 4 UC Irvine, at the Bren Events Center. Match time is set for 7 p.m.

The next UCSB home match will take place on February 3rd as the Gauchos welcome No. 7 Pepperdine to Robertson Gymnasium.