The No. 7 UCSB men’s volleyball team ended its two-game slide Wednesday night in Los Angeles, pounding No. 14 USC in four games by a score of 30-20, 30-24, 23-30, 30-22. The Gauchos (6-2, 3-2 MPSF) snapped a seven-match home winning streak for the Trojans (4-6, 1-3 MPSF) and added a valuable win over a solid Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponent.
Senior opposite hitter Ben Koski led the Gauchos with a match-high 17 kills. Senior outside hitter Andy Rivera crushed the ball five times for aces and added 13 kills to the Gauchos’ victory. Freshman libero Aaron Mansfield helped out defensively, tallying a match-high nine digs for Santa Barbara. As a team, UCSB executed 12 service aces and picked up the intensity, blocking 17.5 would be-kills. This defensive pressure helped the Gauchos hold USC to a measly hitting percentage. The Trojans hit only .169 for the match, limiting their ability to turn the game around.
“[We] served and blocked them off of the court,” junior outside hitter Jan Carlo Zegarra said. “We didn’t hit too well, but we got it done in other ways.”
To help the team to victory, Santa Barbara prevented USC star Brook Billings from getting the looks he wanted. Although the All-American had 17 kills, his performance was diminished by his match-high 13 errors and the constant annoyance from the Gauchos’ defense.
Billings and the Trojans faced an uphill battle for most of the game. The Trojans also received a tremendous effort from Beau Rawi who had 14 kills, while hitting a team-high .550 and tallying 5 of the team’s 6 blocks. By forcing hitting misdirections and getting inside Billings’ head, UCSB found the key to victory.
“We knew he was going to get the sets and we knew where to block him,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “It just worked out well.”
The Gauchos will need the same team chemistry that brought about Wednesday’s success this evening when Santa Barbara faces No. 3 Pepperdine (8-2, 3-0 MPSF) to finish off its four-game road trip. A win against the Waves would even up the Gauchos’ road record. More importantly though, it would secure a respectable Gaucho ranking near the top of the MPSF.
“If we can serve and hit like we did on Wednesday, we can definitely get it going [against Pepperdine],” Preston said.