IRVINE, Calif. — Despite an early lead and a career night from sophomore opposite Matt Marsh, the Gauchos were unable to stop the defending NCAA champions and No. 1 ranked UC Irvine Anteaters, falling by a score of 3-1 on Thursday night. Game scores for the match went 20-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-22.
It was the second time this season that the Gauchos have fallen to the Anteaters, thought UCSB's strong play in that Jan. 30 defeat precipitated an improvement in form that continued tonight. With the loss, the Gauchos fell to 5-9, 3-7 after playing the top-ranked team in the country in back-to-back matches. UC Irvine improved to 11-3, 8-3 to remain at second place in the MPSF standings.
Throughout the night, the Gauchos offense ran through Marsh, who recorded a career high 19 kills on 40 swings in the loss. However, Marsh's excellence was not limited to his offense on Thursday night, as he also set career highs in digs (14) and blocks (4) en route to his first career double-double. Marsh's kill and dig figures led the team, while his block total trailed only junior middle blocker Ryan Thompson, who had a career high himself with six blocks.
For the second time this season, the Gauchos were able to outblock the Anteaters (11.5 to 9.0), but were still unable to come away with victory.
With UCSB trailing 14-15 in the first set, a Jeremy Dejno service error gave way to back-to-back kills from sophomore outside hitter Kevin Donohue — who finished the night with a season-high 14 kills — sparking a 5-1 UCSB run that would give them a comfortable 19-16 lead. After a UCI timeout, the two teams would trade points until the Gauchos were able to claim the first game.
UC Irvine would quickly shape up after going down 1-0, hitting .358 as a team the rest of the way, compared to the Gauchos' .185 clip in games two through four. The Anteaters had three hitters reach double digits in kills, including Dejno (team-high 16), Connor Hughes (11), and Kevin Tillie (14 kills, as well as 16 digs).
The Gauchos also received solid performances from freshman setter Jonah Seif - who recorded 44 assists, the fourth straight time he has picked up 40 or more assists - and junior libero Chad Kingi, who had nine digs, the sixth straight match he has picked up atleast that many. Senior outside hitter struggled to get into an offensive rhythm, picking up just seven kills, but the Santa Barbara native did chip in four blocks.
Tomorrow night, the Gauchos will face UC San Diego for the second time this season. Earlier this year, UCSB was able to defeat the Tritons to end a lengthy losing streak. Video and live stats for that match can be found here.