SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego could muster very little momentum in losing to No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, 3-0, in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) men's volleyball action Friday night at Rob Gym. Set scores were 25-19, 25-11 and 25-20.
The result moves UC San Diego to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the MPSF. UCSB improves to 4-1 overall and an even 1-1 in league play.
A solo block by junior setter Milosh Stojcic gave UCSD its first lead of the opening set, as his denial of Hayden Boehle made it 7-6 in favor of the visitors at the end of a 3-0 mini-run. A 4-0 stretch by the Gauchos around the first timeout of the night by the Tritons broke a 12-12 tie. Though the next five UCSD points came courtesy of UCSB errors, with four of the serving variety and one on the attack, the home side maintained a somewhat-comfortable 21-17 advantage.
That's when things got dicey for the Gauchos, however, as freshman outside hitter Devin Pontigon (Oceanside/El Camino HS) stuffed Corey Chavers and Boehle's attempt missed the target, causing a first UCSB timeout, now up just two at 21-19. In all, it was seven successive Triton points that came on Gaucho errors, but it wasn't enough to rally back in a 25-19 set decision.
The second frame was close early on with neither team ahead by more than two points until four straight by the Gauchos gave them a 12-7 lead and forced a UCSD timeout. That stretch included back-to-back aces by setter Casey McGarry and a stuff block by Jacob Delson and Keenan Sanders. The run extended past the break, all the way to eight at 16-7. With their deficit growing to double digits for the first time at 18-8, the Tritons called their second timeout. UCSB cruised from there, hitting .611 without an error (11-0-18) in a dominant set.
The sides traded points en route to a 5-5 deadlock in the third game, with the Gauchos grabbing their first lead at 6-5 on a Triton mishandle. A 4-0 run put UCSB up 8-5. A solo stuff by Connor Drake made it 19-14, with UCSD calling its final timeout and the contest coming to its conclusion a short time later.
UCSB out-hit UCSD on the night, .229-.015. The teams combined for 29 service errors.
"UC Santa Barbara got the better of us tonight in large part because of what we did on our side of the net," said UCSD head coach Kevin Ring. "We definitely lost the serve-receive battle. We missed 16 serves, and were just not giving ourselves enough chances to score points.
"From the scouting report, our plan was to really side out at a high level, look smooth with the pass, set and hit. We just made things more difficult on ourselves. We didn't pass well, set well, or hit all that well. We had a few moments here and there, but everything was challenging. We've got to find a way to play through our struggles, and get ourselves back on track during the course of a set and match. Unfortunately, right now, we're having a hard time pulling ourselves out of our struggles.
"We're keeping our heads up. The guys are going to continue to work. We talked in the postgame meeting about what we have to do to invoke a change, because we all want a different outcome with our performance level on the court."
For the third consecutive match to begin his college career, Pontigon paced the Tritons in both kills and total points with eight and 9.5 Stojcic wound up with 20 assists, four digs, one kill on a single attempt and his solo block.
Fourth-year senior and team tri-captain Ian Colbert, normally a starting outside hitter, made a rare, and possibly first ever, appearance as the Tritons' primary libero in the injury absence of true freshman Ryan Lew. Redshirt freshman Xander Jimenez earned his first career start at an outside hitter spot, with Colbert moving. He then spent the third set at libero, and contributed a team-best six digs.
UCSB's Delson had nine kills to lead all players, while McGarry totaled 17 assists and three aces.
UC San Diego remains on the road and plays at No. 2 UCLA inside Pauley Pavilion in Westwood on Saturday night, Jan. 14. First serve is slated for just after 7 p.m., with the contest being presented to a national television audience on Pac-12 Los Angeles. The match will mark the Tritons' second-ever appearance on Pac-12 Networks. Please check local listings on respective cable packages.