Rebounding from a winless road trip, the UCSB men’s volleyball team recorded two wins at home against Irvine and Santa Cruz this Friday and Saturday in Rob Gym.
Santa Barbara (7-4, 4-3 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) defeated the Anteaters (5-7, 2-5 in MPSF) 30-27, 30-24, 24-30, 34-32 in Rob Gym Friday night in front of a rowdy crowd of Irvine followers. Head Coach Ken Preston looked to his bench Saturday night as he started only two regular starters in the Gauchos 30-22, 30-25, 30-23 win over Santa Cruz.
“It’s a home game we have to take advantage of,” Preston said.
Sophomore opposite Evan Patak, who had been leading UCSB with 178 total kills and was averaging 4.56 kills per game, went down in the Gauchos’ third game against Irvine. Patak, who ended the night with 13 kills, was sidelined for the remainder of the weekend with an injured knee. The specifics of the injury as well as the length of time in which Patak will be unable to play have yet to be determined.
“I just hope and pray that Evan is okay,” Preston said.
Junior opposite Mike Nelson stepped in for Patak and finished the night with seven kills against the Anteaters. Nelson recorded four more kills against the Banana Slugs before being replaced in game two by junior outside hitter Adam Ulfers who notched four kills and three blocks.
True freshman outside hitter Jake Wiens torched the Slugs for a team-high 25 kills Friday night while junior middle blocker Michael Kennedy had 12 kills to hit .571. Kennedy led all blockers with nine total blocks.
“Jake and Mike both played exceptionally well,” Preston said. “Jake stepped it up and Kennedy has one of the best float serves we have.”
Santa Barbara started the match crawling behind #9 Irvine until #8 UCSB called a timeout following two Anteater service aces, bringing the score to 15-20. From there, things turned around for the Gauchos. A series of stuff blocks from Kennedy, Patak and junior outside hitter Nate Wack closed the gap to 20-22. Senior middle blocker Justin Adams pulled the Gauchos to a 24-23 lead with a kill off of his own pass. Kennedy closed the game 30-27 with a stuff block.
“We’re a better blocking team,” Preston said.
Game two saw service runs from Kennedy and sophomore setter Dane Jensen. A service ace by Adams forced an Anteater timeout at 15-9. Irvine closed the gap to 21-18 until two missed serves from both UCSB and the Anteaters brought the score to an effortless 27-23. Wack ended the game 30-24 with an ace.
The Gauchos started the third game trailing Irvine 4-1 and ended up losing 30-24, forcing a fourth game. Santa Barbara won two long rallies on kills by Wiens and Patak, bringing the score to 8-8 and 10-9, respectively. The teams continued to rally back and forth with three more ties at 13, 15 and 16. UCSB hit only .359 to the Anteaters .606 in game three.
Another series of ties began game four until the Anteaters pulled ahead to a slight 8-9 lead. A lines judge called a Gaucho pass outside of the antenna, which sparked an outbreak from players, fans and coaches. Following a long pause in play, Wiens retaliated against the questionable call with a kill to tie the game 9-9. Back-and-forth scoring continued throughout the game until Wack killed a rally off his own serve bringing the score to 33-32. Jensen and Adams ended the game 34-32 with a stuff block.
“It was a tight game the whole way,” Preston said. “We made a couple of good blocks at the end.”
True freshman outside hitter Aaron Richman and redshirt freshman middle blocker Hayden Watkins made their collegiate debut against the Banana Slugs. Junior libero Aaron Mansfield substituted in outside of the libero position to serve and hit two balls from the back row. Richman and Watkins had two kills each to hit .250 and 1.000, respectively. Junior middle blocker Alejandro Parra had nine kills to hit .583 and lead the Gaucho offense. Sophomore outside hitter Jared Godinez recorded six kills, while setters freshman Bryan Berman and sophomore Bart Kowalski had 27 and eight assists, respectively.
“It’s better to get the young guys sometimes,” Preston said of his decision to sideline the regular starters Saturday night. “Both setters played well.”