Winning hasn’t come easy as of late for the UCSB men’s volleyball team, but the Gauchos were able to dispose of Division III Santa Cruz Tuesday night at The Rob.
Santa Barbara defeated the Banana Slugs in three games, 30-19, 30-25 and 30-27. The victory was the first for the Gauchos in five games, as they enter a stretch of 10 conference games in a row this weekend against BYU.
“I think we found what we haven’t been able to find all season,” sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield said. “We were very consistent and got the job done.”
The Gauchos took control of game one early, jumping out to a 21-11 lead, before the Slugs could make it interesting. Santa Cruz rallied to within six points at 23-17, but Santa Cruz could get no closer.
Santa Barbara pulled away from Santa Cruz in the middle of game two to take control of the match. Sophomore outside hitter Adam Ulfers, senior outside hitters Jan Carlo Zegarra and Anders Bengtsson led the way for Santa Barbara, holding off another late rally by Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz jumped out to a quick 6-3 lead in the final game before the Gauchos responded to jump ahead 8-7. Senior middle blocker Dan Terry and Bengtsson took control late in the game to lead the Gauchos to victory. Frustration ran high for the Slugs, as both Santa Cruz Head Coach Jay Hosack and freshman outside hitter Sam Fullerton consistently badgered the officials. But no amount of arguing could stop the Gauchos, as a Terry block at 29-27 finished off UCSC.
Santa Barbara managed to use every active player in the game against Santa Cruz, giving the young team much-needed experience.
“Throw those guys in the mix in our league and there is a tendency to let down,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “Santa Cruz is not a real tough opponent; they’re small and they don’t block real well.”
Bengtsson led UCSB with 11 kills in the match, to go along with two digs and a .381 hitting percentage. All three freshman setters for the Gauchos contributed in the victory. Dane Jensen led the team with 19 assists, followed by Jared Godinez with 17, and Bart Kowalski with 15.
“I thought Anders played well, he led us with 11 kills,” Preston said. “I thought all three setters did pretty well, Jared hadn’t played much at all in a long time and I think his selection of where to go with the ball was very good. They all bring something different to the floor.”
Santa Barbara outblocked Santa Cruz 10.5 to 3.0 for the match, and outhit the Slugs .447 to .207.
“We’re probably 75-85 percent freshmen on the court at any given moment,” Santa Cruz Head Coach Jay Hosack said. “At any given night we are either amazing or we stink, and tonight was a little middle of the road.”
UCSC did receive a solid effort from sophomore outside hitter Simon Davenport, who was tied with Bengtsson with a match-high 11 kills. Freshman setter Matt Reynolds also contributed 32 assists in the loss.
“The guys are walking into the gyms for the first time in their college careers, playing against a big DI program; it’s a little daunting at first,” Hosack said. “I think Santa Barbara is doing the same thing as we are, they are just trying to find some consistency as well with their players and chemistry, and once they do that I think they will be awesome.”
UCSB hosts BYU at The Rob Friday night at 7.
“BYU Friday night is going to be a tough game. We’re going to have to play a lot better than we did last week because BYU is a quality club,” Preston said.