Despite a disappointing 3-1 loss to Northridge on Friday night, the UCSB men’s volleyball team rallied to defeat Stanford 3-0 and Irvine 3-0 and captured fifth place in the 40th annual UCSB/Elephant Bar Collegiate Invitational on Saturday night in Rob Gym.

Santa Barbara improved to 3-1 on the year, having not yet started official Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.

Northridge defeated the Gauchos 30-22, 36-34, 28-30, 30-25 and went on to pounce top-seeded Long Beach State to advance to the championship match before losing to UCLA 3-2.

“The problems in the Northridge match were serving and then not really being very smart in our hitting,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “We had a lot of good opportunities at the net.”

Senior middle blocker Justin Adams led Santa Barbara in attacking with .444 on the night. Sophomore opposite Evan Patak and junior outside hitter Nate Wack followed with .382 and .290, respectively.

Wack brought fire to the Gauchos, leading the team in digs with eight and posting the second-highest number of blocks with six, behind junior middle blocker Michael Kennedy’s seven.

“We need Nate to dig a lot of balls,” Preston said. “It was a tough match.”

Santa Barbara ran into trouble with its serving, missing 25 total serves.

“It was one of those matches where nothing seems to be clicking on the service line,” Preston said.

Play picked up on Saturday morning, when UCSB defeated Stanford 30-17, 30-23,
30-23. Junior outside hitter Adam Ulfers led the Gaucho offense against the Cardinal with seven kills. Wack, Adams and junior middle blocker Alejandro Parra followed with six kills each.

While the Cardinal hit just .246 for the match, Santa Barbara hit .385 with seven players recording five or more kills.

“We blocked very well and we played very athletically against Stanford,” Preston said. “The guys seemed fresh. I don’t think Stanford is as good a team as Northridge and I think the guys loosened up a bit.”

Freshman outside hitter Jake Wiens hit .500 to lead the Gauchos to victory over Irvine in the tournament’s fifth-place match. Wiens’ 17 kills contributed to UCSB’s .377 attack percentage in the 30-28, 30-25, 30-24 win. Ulfers had 12 kills for .400 and Patak 13 kills to hit .280.

“We served well against Irvine,” Preston said. “We also played good defense in that game.”

UCLA defeated Northridge 30-19, 29-31, 30-21, 30-26, 15-12 to be named tournament champion. Long Beach State edged USC 30-18, 30-27, 30-27 to take third place. Pacific rounded off the tournament, taking eighth place after falling to Stanford 31-33, 30-27, 30-25, 23-30, 15-13.

“These were eight really good teams in our league,” Preston said. “It shows we’re up for a pretty hard battle this year in the MPSF.”