The 49ers (7-4 overall, 4-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) got off to a promising start in set one after getting a three point lead over the Gauchos (7-6 overall, 3-5 MPSF) with back-to-back aces from junior outside hitter Cody Martin.
The Beach never regained the points lead for the rest of the set as UCSB logged in a .200 percent hitting average to LBSU’s -.074 percent. The 49ers had 10 errors matched against the Gauchos five after the first set.
“We got off to a pretty slow start in the match,” LBSU head coach Alan Knipe said. “They put a lot of pressure on us, and we played super hard.”
Execution plagued The Beach. Missed opportunities and mistakes in transitions such as passing, setting and hitting made it difficult for the 49ers to capitalize on Gaucho mistakes.
The Gauchos jumped out to an early lead in the second set before The Beach closed in and kept it close the entire set. LBSU never had more than a one-point lead until Martin attacked from the back row to push the team ahead 22-20.
UCSB rallied to come within one before LBSU junior outside hitter Andrew Whitt put it away to take the win.
“We have to do a better job executing,” Martin said. “I think we had a great team effort, we just had a few errors that we need to clean up as a team.”
A slow start in the third set cost the 49ers the win. Santa Barbara’s senior outside hitter Kevin Donohue dominated, finishing with 20 kills and seven errors on 52 swings. Santa Barbara head coach Rick McLaughlin said this was a win that his team needed.
“[LBSU] concentrated on not giving away runs of points,” McLaughlin said. “We only gave them one big run.”
The 49ers ended the night with 51 kills, but couldn’t overcome the commanding block of the Gauchos’ front row. Serving errors on both sides of the net kept every set close. Each team traded points evenly during the last three sets with the score tied 15 times on different occasions in the second set alone.
“One thing you learn from playing in this league, you have to move past it because you’re going to be playing a game every night against a top ranked team,” Knipe said.
The 49ers will now get set for a three-game road trip that starts on Friday night at Cal State Northridge and will continue at BYU for back-to-back matches against the Cougars on Feb. 20 and 21.