The UCSB men’s volleyball team sank quietly into the incessant Waves on Friday night, just like a tranquil Malibu sunset.
#3 Pepperdine swept #7 Santa Barbara 30-26, 30-21, 30-24 at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu. With the victory, the Waves have won seven consecutive matches while exacting revenge for a Jan. 7 home loss to the Gauchos.
With the loss, UCSB ended its seemingly endless four-game road trip, its longest stretch away from Rob Gym. The Gauchos hit the road back on Jan. 25, riding high with a perfect 5-0 record and consistent team play. Santa Barbara will return home nearly in rags after falling in three of its last four matches and surviving with a meager .500 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation record.
The Gauchos (6-3, 3-3) never got things going against the Waves. Santa Barbara had its best chance in game one after it had mounted a four-point lead late in the game, but Pepperdine rallied behind the strong play of freshman outside hitter Sean Rooney and sophomore outside hitter Fred Winter to escape.
After that, UCSB couldn’t turn the game around.
“We started out really well,” junior outside hitter Keith Busam said. “Then they got four points in a row and we lost our fire and our confidence.”
Rooney, one of the highest touted recruits in the nation last year, was a formidable threat for Pepperdine all night long. Rooney and Winter each marked match-highs in kills. Their 12 kills apiece paced the Waves.
Pepperdine out-hit Santa Barbara with an impressive .424 hitting percentage, while UCSB hit just .242. Pepperdine served six aces on the night while the Gauchos, who are usually ace masters, were blanked in serving aces.
“Their lineup was pretty big,” Gaucho senior outside hitter Andy Rivera said. “They had a really good game-plan.”
Senior outside hitter Ben Koski had 10 kills and was the only Gaucho in double-digit kill totals. Santa Barbara had trouble hitting all night long. Pepperdine forced 19 Gaucho errors. In game three alone, UCSB made 10 errors in proportion to the Waves’ one. Santa Barbara hit only .176, while Pepperdine hammered an amazing .583 of its shots for kills in the final game.
Friday’s loss evens the season record between the two teams. Last month’s 3-1 demolishing win over Pepperdine (10-2, 5-0) was the final of the non-conference Pepperdine Tournament. Santa Barbara realizes that game number three will be at home.
“We aren’t that worried about [the loss],” freshman libero Aaron Mansfield said. “We will beat them when they come here.”
The Gauchos will have this week to rest before they resume play on Friday against #2 Stanford. Santa Barbara will have a chance to rebound against the Cardinal, who won an emotional battle in Rob gym last season.
“We are a really confident,” Mansfield said. “This is one of our biggest matches of the year.”