The crowd stood and applauded as the UCSB men’s volleyball team’s season came to an end Saturday night against UC San Diego at The Rob.
As senior outside hitter Jan Carlo Zegarra served the ball for the final time, the Gauchos finished off the Tritons in four games, 23-30, 30-28, 30-24, 30-22, ending their season and capping off the careers of four seniors.
Senior outside hitters Keith Busam, Anders Bengtsson, Zegarra and middle blocker Dan Terry suited up for the final time against UCSD. The four seniors finished on a good note, after losing four straight games before ousting the Tritons.
UCSD entered the match losers of five of its last six games yet looked poised to spoil the Gauchos’ Senior Night. The Tritons dominated in the first game, crushing Santa Barbara behind junior opposite Jim Waller.
In game two, the Tritons ran out to a quick 3-0 lead, but UCSB quickly regained its form. Junior middle blocker Justin Adams came up big on defense with timely blocks, thwarting San Diego’s upset attempt.
The Gauchos put together strong runs in the middle of games three and four to drop the Tritons in four. Sophomore outside hitter Adam Ulfers posted a team-high 16 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Nate Wack finished with 14 kills on a .632 hitting percentage. Freshman setter Bart Kowalski, seventh in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in serving aces, added two more to go along with 46 assists. Sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield led the defense for the Gauchos, finishing with 14 digs.
Santa Barbara outhit the Tritons .383 to .303, while San Diego outblocked the Gauchos 12 to 11.5.
The Gauchos didn’t fare as well against #8 Long Beach State on Friday night at The Rob. The 49ers disposed of Santa Barbara in three games, 30-24, 30-23, 30-22.
Ulfers led UCSB with 14 kills. Sophomore middle blocker Michael Kennedy contributed 13 kills and freshman setter Dane Jensen, seeing unusual playing time, added 34 assists.
Junior outside hitter Scott Touzinsky led the 49ers with 18 kills and a .500 hitting percentage while junior middle blocker David Lee contributed 12 kills. Freshman middle blocker Duncan Budinger also added 12 kills on an amazing .857 hitting percentage. LBSU outblocked the Gauchos 10-5 and outhit UCSB .467 to .238.
UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston will keep his squad in the gym over the next few weeks to practice for next season. The Gauchos should have a very different look next season, with new recruits added to the mix.
“We’ve got a stable full of young good players but playing well together remains to be seen,” Preston said. “We’ve got guys coming out of redshirt years and two kids that we signed that are very good volleyball players. The overall talent in the gym next year will be really high and I’d like to see everyone come back and start anew and close this chapter.”
The team could have as many as four new players in the starting lineup next year, including two true freshmen. The Gauchos now have an off-season to get back to the postseason form displayed only a year ago.
“I think we have to get physically stronger and I think a lot of guys in our program need to concentrate on volleyball a little bit more,” Preston said. “A lot of them played different sports in high school, which was great, but now they are volleyball players, and I think they should step up to the line and learn a little more about ball control and playing the game.”