In the battle of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation titans, the UCSB men’s volleyball team defeated the University of Southern California 3-0 in a Friday night war at Rob Gym.
The unranked Trojans succumbed to the Gauchos 30-25, 30-21, 30-23, and fell to 3-11 overall and 2-6 in MPSF. In a record time of one hour and 23 minutes, Santa Barbara hit a collective .443 hitting percentage to improve to 8-4, 4-3 in MPSF.
“I think they felt fresh tonight,” Head Coach Kenny Preston said.
Ranked seventh in both the AVCA Coaches Poll and in MPSF standings, the Gauchos are riding on a three-match winning streak and are currently led by freshman outside hitter Jake Wiens, who is averaging 3.50 kills per game to connect at .289 hitting.
Leading the Gaucho attack was junior opposite Mike Nelson, who recorded a match-high 17 kills to hit .615 on the night.
“There were times in the fall and during the year when Mike and Evan were competing for the starting role,” Preston said. “Mike stepped it up big time.”
Sophomore opposite Evan Patak continues to be sidelined with a knee injury.
Wiens added 14 kills to hit .455 and junior middle blocker Michael Kennedy and junior outside hitter Nate Wack amassed seven kills each. Santa Barbara out-hit the Trojans in all three games.
“We were overloading with quicks and outsides,” Preston said. “Once [sophomore setter Dane] Jensen got into a flow, he set a good offense.”
Sophomore outside hitter/libero Joao Grangeiro led USC with 10 kills and was the only Trojan to hit double-digits. Junior outside hitter Blake Tippett has been leading USC with an average of 3.60 kills per game and notched 17 kills in the Trojans’ 3-1 upset over #6 Northridge last Wednesday. Santa Barbara held Tippett to nine kills for a .095 hitting average while SC hit only .198 collectively.
On defense, junior libero Aaron Mansfield recorded 12 of the Gauchos’ 30 digs. At the net, USC accumulated 11 total blocks to the Trojans’ five. Kennedy led with six stuff blocks while junior middle blocker Alejandro Parra added four, and Wiens and Nelson added three each.
“I challenged Aaron to dig left back, and he dug a lot of balls,” Preston said.
A slow Gaucho offense commenced game one as the Trojans led until a Wack kill tied the score at eight. Kennedy secured the 18-11 lead for USC with a stuff block. Parra entered the game to register a kill on his first attempt and bring the score to 29-24. Nelson ended the game with a kill from the back row.
After a series of back-and-forth scoring, Kennedy again secured a second-game lead for the Gauchos with consecutive kills, bringing the score to 17-13. Nelson added a kill followed by a service ace to force a USC time out at 21-16. Sequential stuff blocks by Kennedy widened the gap to 28-14 until he closed the game 30-21 with a kill.
Game three saw a multitude of blocks. Another game of catch-up began for USC until a Nelson kill evened the score at 17. Kennedy and Jensen brought the score to 19-17 with a stuff double-block after a series of off-speed attacks by Jensen and Nelson and two digs by Parra. With the score at 28-23, Preston placed Parra and senior Justin Adams, two middle blockers, in the front row together. The Trojans would not score another point as Santa Barbara secured a win off a Wack serve.