Geste Bianchi
UCSB freshman Geste Bianchi, left, got eight kills for the Gauchos in a straight-set loss to Long Beach State at the Thunderdome Saturday. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The No. 6 ranked UCSB men’s volleyball team dropped its second straight contest Saturday, losing to Long Beach State in a very competitive straight set match, 25-21, 26-24, 25-22. 

Santa Barbara, which lost to Long Beach State on Friday as well, fell to 14-6 overall and 3-2 in Big West play while the No. 3 ranked Long Beach improved to 14-3 and 3-1 in conference play.

Despite it being a straight-set match, UCSB hung in close in every set, with opportunities to steal a win.

Senior Ryan Wilcox led the Gauchos in scoring with 10 kills, but hit just .167 from the field while doing so, finishing with five attack errors. Freshman Geste Bianchi added another eight kills for the Gauchos.

The Beach had three players in double figures helping them round out the scoring, including the team’s freshman standout, outside hitter Alex Nikolov, leading the game with 17 kills while his running mate, redshirt junior Spencer Olivier registered 15 kills on an impressive .379 clip.

Clarke Godbold was the other LBSU player with double-digit kills, finished with 11 kills.

The first set especially was highly competitive, with both sides never gaining much of an advantage until the midway point.

In the frame, Santa Barbara hit a .517 clip, but Long Beach State was even more impressive, hitting .586.

Trailing 10-8, Long Beach State would win the next three points to take the lead – one it would not surrender the rest of the frame, and would go on to outscore the Gauchos 9-3 to take a commanding 17-13 lead in the frame.

UCSB tried to hang in, cutting the lead to just three at 22-19, but back-to-back service errors by the Gauchos on their next two opportunities squandered their chance for a comeback, ultimately losing the first set, 25-21.

In the second set, Santa Barbara fell behind early, 7-4, but quickly rattled off three straight to tie the frame up. From there, UCSB led the majority of the frame, building three-point leads on three separate occasions, its final one being at 18-15 before The Beach rattled off three-straight points to tie it up.

The Gauchos once again took control, netting the next two points, but Long Beach State then rattled off another three straight capped off by an ace from Godbold to take its first lead 21-20, since leading 7-6.

Long Beach State had set point at 24-23 but a kill by UCSB’s Dayne Chalmers tied it up at 24. But again, a service error by the Gauchos gave the lead right back to The Beach, who then capped off the frame with a kill from Nikolov.

The final set was as back and forth as the other two, but once UCSB gave up its lead at 12-11, it never got it back.

Its best chance to steal the frame came at 19-all, but Long Beach instead rattled off three straight with kills from Nikolov and Olivier leading the charge. The two teams traded points until Godbold hit the game-winning kill to secure the sweep.

UCSB’s next contest will be at 7 p.m. against UC Irvine on the road on Wednesday, March 30. 

The Gauchos will then host the anteaters at the same time Friday night at Rob Gym which will also be the team’s senior night, as their final four contests of the regular season will be on the road.