After splitting a set of matches last weekend, the UCLA men’s volleyball team ended its five-match road trip with a quality victory over UC Santa Barbara and with the momentum back on UCLA’s side.
The No. 6 Bruins (8-6, 7-4 MPSF) won 30-28, 30-25, 19-30, 30-24 over the No. 8 Gauchos (6-8, 6-5), putting the finishing touches on a successful road stretch in which the team went 4-1.
The Bruins opened the first set hitting .355, and were led by senior outside hitter Garrett Muagututia, who recorded six kills and two blocks. In the second, UCSB junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel, who is the Gauchos’ biggest threat and leads the conference in kills per set, went down with a leg injury. The Bruins based their defensive game plan around stopping Menzel, and after he went out, sophomore quick hitter Nick Vogel said he felt his team took advantage.
“Once he went out, it definitely affected them a lot more than it affected us,” Vogel said. “We just went back to basics, started playing regular volleyball, and they suddenly didn’t have their best player, so that was pretty significant for them.”
In the third set, the Gauchos made several lineup changes. Facing unfamiliar opponents, the Bruins struggled.
Senior setter Kevin Ker said he felt his team was not able to adjust to UCSB’s substitutions.
“They subbed in, like, three news guys, and they were fresh and they were ready to go, and they came out and they fired up the rest of their team and they were pretty much on fire,” Ker said. “We weren’t ready for it and we kind of got into a hole early on in the match and we couldn’t dig ourselves out of it.”
UCSB established an early lead in the third, which they held onto throughout the set. After redshirt sophomore quick hitter Weston Dunlap hit a kill to make the score 27-19, the Gauchos scored three straight points, including a service ace by junior outside hitter/opposite Todd Travis to end the set.
Sensing that the third set was all but over, coach Al Scates rested his starters to make sure they were fresh for the rest of the match. The Gauchos have had several recent matches go to five sets, which factored into Scates’ decision.
“I just wanted to rest them because I figured we could go five quite easily,” Scates said.
Overall, the Bruins only hit .228, and were led by Muagututia, who recorded 18 kills and a service ace. UCSB also struggled offensively, hitting .222 and committing 34 errors. The Gauchos were led by junior opposites Cullen Irons and Travis, who each hit 11 kills.
The Bruins now head home to face No. 1 Cal State Northridge Friday night.