April 2, 2008
Seventh-ranked UCLA took another step toward hosting a quarterfinal MPSF playoff match by beating No. 14 UC Santa Barbara in four games Wednesday night.
The Bruins won 29-31, 30-21, 30-24, 33-31 in one hour and 55 minutes in front of 482 fans. The victory avenged a Feb. 20 four-game loss to UCSB and raised the Bruins' overall record to 16-11, 11-8 in league play. The Gauchos fell to 9-15, 6-13.
More importantly, UCLA tied Pepperdine for fourth place in the league race. Both teams have three matches remaining. Should they tie, the Bruins win the tiebreaker because of their two conference victories against the Waves.
On this night, the Bruins overcame nine service errors and a loss in Game 1 to sweep the next three games. Game 1 was a see-saw battle with neither team taking more than a three point lead until the Gauchos broke a 29-29 tie with a kill by freshman opposite Jeff Menzel and a block by Vince Devany and Matt Thobe. For the game, the Bruins hit .350 and out-gunned the Gauchos 21 kills to 15, but nine service errors against zero aces proved the difference.
The Bruins' serve came alive in Game 2 when sophomore Garrett Muagututia aced UCSB for a 2-1 lead. Another ace by junior D.J. Stromath gave the Bruins a 6-2 lead and they were on their way to controlling the game. UCLA finished the second game with four aces (and limited their service mistakes to six), while hitting at a .500 clip. Muagututia, who had four kills in Game 1, exploded for seven in the second game, while junior Sean O'Malley, who had eight kills in the first game, added three in the second.
The Bruins served even better in Game 3, acing the Gauchos three times and serving just one ball out. They never trailed in the third game, breaking from a 5-5 tie to march on an 11-5 run before UCSB burned its first timeout. The Gauchos barely threatened until the Bruins were ahead 29-21 following a UCSB service error. Three consecutive UCSB points forced the Bruins to call their only timeout of the game, before a UCSB hitting error put UCLA up 2-1.
UCSB held several three point leads in Game 4 and fought off a couple of UCLA rallies. The Bruins called their final timeout trailing 26-28, and watched as UCSB held game point at 29-27. Two kills by O'Malley tied the score and UCSB called its final timeout. After a UCLA blocking error brought the score to 31-31, the Bruins scored the final two points on kills by O'Malley and Muagututia.
Muagututia played one of his finest matches of the season, pounding a match-high 26 kills (.600), digging 11 balls, serving a pair of aces and recording two solo blocks for 30 points. O'Malley spiked a career high of 25 kills (.400) and recorded an ace and three block assists for 27.5 points. Stromath added 11 kills (.476), a career-high of three aces and three total blocks. Senior Libero Tony Ker recorded 10 digs, his 58th career double-digit dig match.
Theo Brunner and Mike Runkle led UCSB with 14 kills apiece.
UCLA's next home match is Fri., Apr. 4 against CS Northridge at 7 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.