The Matadors couldn’t get the offense going against the fourth-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos as they dropped their fourth match in a row in straight sets, 25-22, 25-23, 25-15.
The Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team has lost the last four out of five matches without winning a single game, with the exception of a four-game victory against UC San Diego on Feb. 19.
Despite many defeats this season, the Matadors (4-14, 3-10 MPSF) do not feel discouraged by the increasing number of games in the loss column.
“We haven’t lost motivation because of the losses. We learn from the losses and build on them together,” freshman middle blocker Greg Faulkner said.
The Gauchos (11-8. 9-7 MPSF) had control of the match the entire night, holding CSUN to an abysmal .111 hitting percentage for the game. The Matadors, who were outhit by UCSB, have now gone 11 straight matches without winning an opening set.
Northridge has not found an answer for their low hitting percentage and service errors this season.
“I think the main reason we’re struggling is because we haven’t consistently put the ball on the court,” Faulkner said. “If the pass or set isn’t there, we have to adapt and just put the ball in play instead of hitting it out of bounds.”
The first game featured sloppy play from both teams. With the Matadors down 9-4, CSUN found a spark and took three of the next four points to pull within 10-7.
Northridge traded back in forth with UCSB until they tied things up at 17, following an ace by Matador Brandon Lebrock. The freshman outside hitter had a solid game, totaling five kills, one ace, four digs and a pair of blocks.
The Gauchos scored the next four points, giving them a large margin. Lebrock scored a kill that pulled the Matadors within one at 22-21, but that would be the closest CSUN got, as sophomore Drew Staker’s costly service error on game point gave UCSB the win 25-22.
UCSB jumped on CSUN to kick off the second game, scoring the first three points before the Matadors surged to tie the game up six after a Gaucho hitting error, while the game was at 6-4 and a Lebrock-Staker block. CSUN would grab a slight lead while the teams traded sideouts until the Gauchos scored on consecutive points to take back the lead 14-13.
After three more sideouts and consecutive kills by Lebrock and John Baker, Northridge gained its largest lead of the game at 17-15, forcing the Gauchos into a timeout.
The teams found themselves tied again at 22-22 before Gauchos’ Jeff Menzel recorded an ace. UCSB finished the game when Cullen Irons and Dylan Davis denied Lebrock on game point.
Middle blocker Staker and outside hitter Dillon Auxier led the Matadors with nine kills each, with both hitting .380 for the match.
The Gauchos outhit the Matadors .347 to .193 for the match, with UCSB getting 40 kills to CSUN’s 33.
Menzel led the Gauchos with a match-high 16 kills, while Scott Slaughter, who came into the match leading the MPSF in hitting percentage (.490), added six kills and five blocks.
Matador costly hitting errors put CSUN in a 10-5 deficit. The Gauchos would run away from the game after that point, dominating the Matadors 15-8. The Gauchos blew away CSUN 25-15 to win the match, giving UCSB the season sweep against the Matadors for the first time since 2002.