January 20, 2012

Gauchos Dispatched in Four Sets by Pacific

UCSB dropped its first conference match of the season on Friday night, losing to Pacific 3-1 (25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 25-13) at Rob Gym. Coming into the match, the Gauchos had taken 12 of the last 13 meetings between the two teams. However, Pacific has now won the last two match-ups.

With the victory, Pacific improves to 3-2 (1-1 in conference play), while UCSB falls to 2-3 (0-1).

There were not many bright spots for the home team- junior outside hitter Miles Evans led the team in kills for the fifth straight match, and freshman outside hitter Kevin Donohue had a strong performance in relief, picking up eight kills over the two final games.

In the first two games of the match, UCSB struggled mightily with their attacking. Over those two games, the Gauchos compiled 21 attacking errors. In comparison, Pacific had seven errors over that same span. That high error total was no doubt exacerbated by Pacific's blocking corp, who picked up 11 team blocks over those first two games.

UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin shook up his lineup at the outset of the third game, and the move paid dividends. Donohue and freshman opposite Matt Marsh came into the match to aid Evans in the attacking game. Donohue had half of his eight kills in the set, while Marsh, in his UCSB debut, picked up three kills over the final two frames.

Regardless of the output by the freshmen, their presence seemed to boost Evans' game. Miles picked up six of his kills in the third frame, keeping his squad at level pegging with the Tigers throughout the game. With the score knotted at 20-20, an Evans kill sparked a five-point run to win the set. Sophomore middle blocker Evan Licht's strong serving in the final points kept Pacific off balance and forced them into making vital passing errors.

That small victory was short-lived however, as Pacific stormed back in the fourth- restricting the Gauchos to just 13 points in the decisive set. For the game, Pacific hit .556 as a team while UCSB hit just .054.

The final numbers told the story quite succinctly: the Gauchos were outblocked by Pacific 19 to 4.5 and outhit .357 to .141. The team finished with 33 attacking errors, a season high.

After the match, Rick McLaughlin commented on the volatile nature of his lineup: "We have a lot of youth. So we're going to get those guys out there and get them some experience. If they're winning, we'll stick with them. Regardless, our guys will bounce back tomorrow night. We have a real competitive [locker] room in there."

Tomorrow night's match will be against Stanford, currently ranked No. 4 in the nation. Stanford will come into Rob Gym after having been swept by UCLA for their first loss on Friday night. They carry a 3-1 overall record, and a 1-1 MPSF record.

Tickets for that match, and for all home matches this season, can be purchased here.

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