Armed with a multi-dimensional attack, the #8 UCSB men’s volleyball team played the role of gladiators last Friday evening, storming past Mountain Pacific Sports Federation foe University California-Irvine.

Santa Barbara (5-0, 2-0 in the MPSF) defeated #7 Irvine (2-2, 0-1 MPSF) in a four-game match by a score of 30-23, 23-30, 30-19, 30-25 to increase its lifetime series record to a dominating 25-2 advantage over the Anteaters.

By extending their current win streak to five games, the Gauchos remain the only undefeated team in the conference.

UCSB’s victory was a result of collective dominance. Senior opposite Ben Koski had a big night for Santa Barbara, tallying a game-high 23 kills. Senior outside hitter Andy Rivera and junior outside hitter Jan Carlo Zegarra also played well for the Gauchos, chipping in 13 and 10 kills, respectively. Senior setter Britt Galang posted 56 assists while freshman libero Aaron Mansfield helped out with a game-high 11 digs.

Head Coach Ken Preston knew his team would need a strong showing if UCSB had any plans of beating such a formidable opponent.

“They [UCSB] were focused out there,” Preston said. “We knew this was a big match because Irvine was ranked preseason #10 and they finished the season really well last year. It was a big home win for us.”

Santa Barbara got off to a fast start in the first game. Rivera consistently caught the Anteaters off guard with his powerful jump serves while Koski and Zegarra located their kill targets with deadly precision.

Irvine countered in the second game, winning handily 30-23.

In the third game, Santa Barbara went on fire. Sparked by the crowd, the Gauchos sent Irvine’s game plan into shambles. Santa Barbara started with an 8-1 lead and finished off the game, crushing the Anteaters 30-19. The Gauchos were all smiles after their dominating performance.

“The crowd was so awesome,” Zegarra said. “So many people were crazy. It was a fun night.”

The fourth game was a hard-fought battle. Santa Barbara, however, never wavered. The Gauchos, led by Rivera, stepped up the defensive pressure by blocking balls and hustling for every last point.

“We played hard,” Koski said. “We just tried to keep the intensity up.”

Friday night’s game was Irvine’s MPSF opener. The Anteaters had four players in double kill figure totals. Sophomore outside hitter Jimmy Pelzel had 12 kills for Irvine while sophomore setter David Kniffin helped out with a game-high 57 assists.

“They were fighting,” Rivera said. “They were coming right back. Irvine is a team that’s going to fight until the very end.”

The Gauchos will now go on the road for an extended time and they will not return to Santa Barbara until Feb. 8. The next four matchups for Santa Barbara will certainly test its character. UCSB will meet Pacific (1-4, 0-1 MPSF) on Friday night and then travel to Palo Alto to face bitter rival #3 Stanford (3-1, 2-1 MPSF) on Sunday. Although UCSB is confident of its ability, the Gauchos will celebrate the win over Irvine in moderation.

“[We need to] take it one game at a time,” Rivera said. “We looked ahead last year. Anyone can beat anybody at any given time.”