Gauchos fade against Brigham Young

UCSB dominated the first set but couldn’t maintain the momentum and fell to BYU 15-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-20 in a MPSF volleyball match Thursday night at the Thunderdome.

The loss put an end to UCSB’s three-game winning streak, bringing their record to 8-6, 6-5 in MPSF play. BYU improved to 11-3, 7-2.

At the onset of the match, it looked like the Gauchos were on their way to stopping their four-match losing streak against the Cougars. Senior opposite Cullen Irons had six of his 14 kills in the first game, while senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel recorded five of his 17 kills in the same frame — Menzel also had a perfect hitting percentage for the game.

UCSB withstood a pair of Taylor Sander aces, and held BYU to a .077 hitting percentage for the first set. Conversely, the Gauchos hit at a robust .684 clip, with only one error.

The second set was not as kind to the Gauchos. BYU’s Sander recorded six of his 17 kills and the Cougars recorded 5.5 team blocks in the set — they finished the night with 12.5 blocks as a team, led by Futi Tavana’s six block assists.

Jeff Menzel recorded four of his season-high nine blocks, but a late Gaucho comeback fell short after a service error from freshman middle blocker Evan Licht.

The night only got worse for the Gauchos, who lost senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter for part of the third set after he landed awkwardly on his ankle while attempting to make a play at the net. Slaughter would return for the fourth set, and coach Rick McLaughlin stressed that Slaughter is “ready to go” for Friday’s match against BYU.

The Gauchos eventually dropped the final two sets by identical scores of 25-20. Senior setter Vince Devany eclipsed the 500 assist mark for the third time in his career, as he now sits at 538 assists for the year following his 41 assist output tonight.

When asked what needed to change for the Gauchos, McLaughlin said, “We just need to be better. I think we lost our focus out there tonight.”

UCSB finishes a back-to-back series against BYU on Friday at 7:30 at the Thunderdome.