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No. 4 Long Beach State Makes Short Work of Gauchos

No. 14 UCSB no match for 49ers in fast-paced sweep.

Paul Lotman put away a match-high 19 kills and added six service aces as the No. 4 Long Beach State men’s volleyball team had no trouble defeating 14th-ranked UCSB, 3-0, on Friday night at Robertson Gymnasium. Scores of the match, which lasted just an hour and 15 minutes, went 30-18, 30-25 and 30-24.

UCSB fell to 9-17 overall and 6-15 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, while Long Beach State improved to 22-5 and 17-4.

Lotman, who ranks third in the nation in kills per game at 5.53, hit .556 with four errors in 27 attacks. Dean Bittner posted 13 kills and five blocks, while Dan Alexander, who is second in the nation in attack percentage (.500), hit .778 with seven kills and no errors in nine swings. He also had a match-best six blocks.

UCSB was led by opposite Jeff Menzel, a freshman from San Marcos High who had 13 kills, three digs and three blocks. Outside hitter Phil Mathews hit a career-high .750 with 10 kills and one error in 12 swings. Middle blocker Theo Brunner swung at .636 with seven kills and no errors in 11 sets.

Overall, Long Beach held a .420 (47-13-81) to .250 (36-17-76) edge in hitting. The Gauchos found themselves aced 11 times, but out-blocked the 49ers 7.5 to 7.

The opening set was close early until Long Beach scored five straight to take an 11-5 lead. The 49ers got three blocks from Alexander and two more from Bittner during the rally. The Gauchos could not recover and ended up hitting -.042 while the 49ers swung at .476. Josh Riley had the game-winning kill off one of Mike Klipsch’s 41 assists. Klipsch leads the country in assists, averaging 13.83 per game.

Game two proved to be much more competitive as UCSB out-hit LBSU .364 to .344. The 49ers jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but a couple of quick runs by the Gauchos got them right back into it. A Lotman hitting error tied the game, 9-9. Santa Barbara stayed close, but still trailed, until a Bittner kill, an ace by Alexander, and a kill by Riley gave Long Beach a 23-18 lead. The Gauchos closed to within two points at 27-25, but the 49ers reeled off another three-straight points to win the frame.

UCSB took its first lead of the match in the third game. LBSU went up 3-0, but the Gauchos managed to tie it, 5-5, on a Menzel ace. After trading points to get to 6-6, UCSB took a 7-6 lead on a blistering service ace by Mike Fisher. However, the Gauchos’ last lead of the game was at 10-9. LBSU tied it on a Bittner kill and then took a 12-10 lead on a UCSB attack error and a Bittner kill. UCSB would tie the game four more times, the last at 16-16 off a kill by Mathews. The 49ers stepped up and posted five consecutive points that included two kills and two aces by Lotman. Fittingly, Lotman’s sixth ace of the match gave Long Beach the 30-24 victory.

UCSB, which had already been eliminated from postseason play last week, will play its final match of the year Saturday as it hosts UC San Diego at 7 p.m. Not only will it be the final career outing for its senior class — Brunner, Fisher, Mathews and Ben Brockman — it will also be head coach Ken Preston’s final career match. Preston, who has announced his retirement, has been at the helm of the UCSB men’s volleyball program for 30 years and has racked up more than 500 career victories.

Click here for Friday’s official box score and play-by-play.

Scott Flanders is UCSB‘s associate media relations director.

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