Struggling to find that winning spark after wallowing in the midst of a two-match rut, the #7 UCSB men’s volleyball team jump-started its dying engine against LaVerne on Friday to get back on the winning track.
It was slow going, but the Gauchos (6-5 overall, 3-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) found the right tools to get back on the road and zoomed past the Leopards (3-8) at the Thunderdome in a 30-23, 23-30, 30-16, 30-16 victory.
“We haven’t had good energy these past few weeks,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “I was disappointed with how we entered the floor in the second game, so I decided to change the chemistry and it worked.”
The first half of game one was neck-to-neck, with both teams struggling to pull away from one another. With the score tied at 16, UCSB decided to take matters into its own hands and surged ahead, taking a 27-20 lead. The Leopards roared back but the Gauchos tempered their attack, winning game one 30-23.
“We lacked intensity,” said UCSB junior outside hitter Alex Lienert, who played for LaVerne last year. “[LaVerne] always comes out and swings hard because they have nothing to lose. In the second game we didn’t come out with anything at all – we didn’t serve, pass or put any pressure on them.”
Behind the momentum of sophomore utility Jake Swann, LaVerne took an early 5-2 lead in game two. UCSB fumbled at the service line but managed to maintain its composure to keep the game within three. However, the Leopards stepped it up and widened the gap to six. UCSB didn’t answer and lost 23-30.
The Gauchos came out as a shadow of their former self and took an early 11-3 lead in game three. Junior outside hitters Dave Kohl and Andy Rivera kept the ball rolling for the Gauchos by contributing impressive kills, helping Santa Barbara notch a .485 hitting percentage. By the time LaVerne gained its composure they were deep in debt, 25-11. Three consecutive points weren’t enough and LaVerne was forced to declare bankruptcy in a 30-16 loss.
“We should play every game of every match the way we did in the third game,” said Preston, who made some effective changes in the lineup going into the third game.
Once again UCSB took control of matters and secured a 6-2 lead. LaVerne invested well and came within two, 11-9. However, Santa Barbara had its eye on the prize and surged ahead of the Leopards, 20-10. Determined to finish what it started, UCSB kept applying pressure and won 30-16.
“[The Gauchos are] a tall and quick team,” said LaVerne sophomore outside hitter Jay Chapman. “They work well together as a team, they function well. They are one of the tougher teams we’ve played this season.”
Leading UCSB was sophomore opposite hitter Ben Koski, who finished the night with 12 kills and hit .474. Sophomore middle blocker Justin Adams made his presence known, tallying six kills and nine block assists. Freshman setter Jeff Minc tallied four service aces and 11 defensive digs and sophomore outside hitter Jan Carlo Zegarra held his own with four kills and a .667 hitting percentage.
The Gauchos take on #3 Pepperdine on Tuesday night in the Thunderdome at 7:05.