While some teams are trying to rid themselves of deja vu-like losses, the #3 UCSB men’s volleyball team is embracing its recent pattern of success.
The undefeated Gauchos (3-0 overall, 1-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) have gone from an unranked squad to a successful program that is turning a lot of heads, and Saturday’s match against UC Santa Cruz (1-4) was no exception. Santa Barbara started its home schedule with a bang, squashing the Banana Slugs in a 30-24, 30-15, 30-25 victory at the Thunderdome.
"There wasn’t ever a point in the game where I was nervous," UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. "Everybody worked really hard and it was nice to be able to give every guy who was eligible some playing time."
Santa Barbara came out fired up and took an early lead. The Division III Banana Slugs tried to temper the Gauchos, but UCSB kept them at bay, storming away with a 30-24 victory.
The story of game two was much like the first game. UCSB came out strong, posting an early 6-2 lead. However, the Slugs crept back to bring it within one, 6-5. Behind the momentum of sophomore middle blocker Justin Adams’ serve, the Gauchos reasserted themselves by gaining a five-point lead. Within minutes the Banana Slugs saw all their hopes of winning game two diminish while the Gauchos increased their command over their opponents with a 22-11 lead. UCSB finished UCSC off for a 30-15 victory.
"We beat them pretty convincingly," senior middle blocker Wes Badorek said. "Overall everybody played pretty well. The guys that came out in the third game had a nice comeback. They were down the whole time, but they stuck it out and pulled ahead to beat them."
Santa Cruz was one step ahead of UCSB for the first part of game three. However, the Gauchos put on the pressure and sophomore setter Dylan Fern’s ace serve tied the game at 7. It was back and forth until freshman outside hitter Matt Larson and sophomore middle blocker Dan Hughes stepped up, each tallying three kills to give UCSB a 27-24 edge. The Banana Slugs made one more outburst for a shot at winning the match, but the Gauchos crushed it with a 30-25 victory.
Junior opposite hitter Ben Koski led the squad with seven kills, followed by junior outside hitter Andy Rivera’s six kills. Sophomore outside hitter Brian Nordberg chipped in five kills and four digs while Larson held his own with five kills. The team out-blocked the Banana Slugs 8.5 to 4 while posting 49 kills, opposed to Santa Cruz’s 37.
The Gauchos were successful in subduing the Slugs’ key player, senior opposite hitter Daniel Von Wetter, who led his team with 22 kills in its victory over D’Youville College. The Gauchos contained the senior to nine kills.
"[UCSB] blocked really well," Von Wetter said. "All around they looked pretty good. We made a lot of mistakes tonight and they capitalized on them."
The Gauchos will be back in action Wednesday when they compete against Cal Baptist at Rob Gym at 7:05 p.m.
"Wednesday will be a good test for us," Badorek said. "They beat us last year, so this is a grudge match."