After a week of rest, the UCSB men’s volleyball team suited up and got the blood flowing in preparation for tomorrow’s main event.
Thursday night, the Gauchos (11-4, 7-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) showed Pacific what it’s like to play at Rob Gym. Santa Barbara avenged a Jan. 25 loss to Pacific in Stockton that sent then undefeated Santa Barbara into a two-match skid.
UCSB defeated the Tigers (5-12, 3-10 MPSF) 3-1 by a score of 30-24, 28-30, 30-26, 30-21 to maintain its undefeated record at home. Five Gauchos scored double-kill figure totals for Santa Barbara, led by senior outside hitter Andy Rivera. Rivera tallied a match-high 24 kills while compiling an incredible .767 hitting percentage to ensure a Gaucho victory.
Rivera was followed by sophomore middle blocker Justin Adams, who amassed a .688 hitting percentage on 11 kills. Senior opposite Alex Lienert, playing in just two games of the match, hit .529 and collected 10 kills. As for Rivera, the team captain was elated with a victory over Pacific, his first such accomplishment in four years.
“I knew this was the last chance I would play these guys,” Rivera said. “I just knew I had to come out and do it for myself and my school. I played angry tonight.”
In all, Santa Barbara’s 75 kills destroyed Pacific’s chance of mounting a run. Also, 21 Tiger errors ensured a victorious outcome for Santa Barbara. UCSB hit .451 on the evening while allowing Pacific to squander a measly .329 mark. The Gauchos out-blocked Pacific 11-5 while completing four more aces from serve.
“We just came out strong,” freshman middle blocker Michael Kennedy said. “We knew not to overlook this team.”
Going into the contest, Pacific was coming off a two-match winning streak. The Tigers mounted a victory over USC and then knocked off first-place Pepperdine last week. It is no wonder, then, that Pacific did not leave Santa Barbara without putting up a fight. Four Tigers scored 13 or more kills on Thursday night. Senior outside hitter Aaron Watchfogel had 15 kills for Pacific after earning MPSF Player of the Week honors last week for his dominating play.
The Gauchos will return to action tonight when they play host to UCLA at 7. Santa Barbara will try to avenge yet another MPSF road loss from earlier this season. On Feb. 19, UCSB lost in four games to the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. Santa Barbara will hope to keep its perfect record at home intact while continuing to climb its way up the rankings.
“We’ll see what happens against the No. 1 team in the country,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “I don’t think we are going to have to get fired up for the Bruins.”