They did it.
The #7 UCSB men’s volleyball team pulled off a solid performance Friday night to upset #3 Long Beach State in a quick three-game sweep in Rob Gym.
“For the last three weeks, [Long Beach has] been the best team in the country, in my opinion,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “I think that proves that we can beat just about anybody on any given night and we just have to go in with some confidence.”
With a big game on the line, the Gauchos came out with a bang and relied on momentum to carry them through the match 30-24, 30-27, 31-29.
“I don’t think [Long Beach] played an exceptionally good match tonight,” Preston said. “We played pretty well in the first game tonight, which kind of set the tone [for the rest of the match].”
Senior middle blocker Justin Adams commenced game one with a kill, but Santa Barbara (9-6 overall, 5-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) allowed the Beach to tie the score at five before breaking free off of three serves and a kill by sophomore opposite Evan Patak. Consecutive point-scoring plays by freshman outside hitter Jake Wiens forced a Long Beach timeout at 28-24. Santa Barbara closed the game on a stuff block by junior middle blocker Alejandro Parra and Patak after Long Beach senior outside hitter Scott Touzinsky missed his serve.
“I thought Touzinsky had an off night,” Preston said, “but it’s our house and it’s a good win.”
Freshman setter Bryan Berman fired an unreturnable serve at the Beach to kick off the second game. Junior outside hitter Nate Wack recorded a kill on an off-speed attempt to keep the Gauchos within close range of Long Beach (14-3, 9-2 in the MPSF). Sophomore middle blocker Duncan Budinger hit the ball out of bounds for the Beach before Wiens recorded a kill, forcing a Long Beach timeout at 14-13. Two consecutive Wack aces after the timeout set the Gauchos on track for a comfortable 15-13 lead. After two UCSB hitting errors, Wiens added another kill at 29-27 and Berman closed the game with a service ace.
Opening game three with a back-row kill from Patak, the Gauchos jumped to a quick 7-2 lead. However, Santa Barbara would give up that lead, allowing Long Beach to tie the score at 23.
“The momentum was on our side pretty much from the beginning [of the match] and we kept it on our side,” Preston said. “That was the key for the third game, – keeping [the momentum] on our side.”
Back-and-forth scoring continued throughout the remainder of the third game with sophomore setter Tyler Hildebrand dumping two important kills for the Beach at 24-25 and 26-27. Berman and Parra ended the game and match for the Gauchos with a stuff block following an unreturnable Berman serve.
“Parra got some key stuffs at the end of matches,” Preston said.
However, the blocking sensation of the night was junior middle blocker Michael Kennedy, who recorded a match-high eight stuff blocks. Kennedy also led the Gauchos with a .692 hitting average as a result of his nine kills.
Patak lead both teams in kills with 20, while Wiens recorded a second-best 17 kills.
“Berman did a nice job,” Preston said. “He distributed the ball well and he went to the places we wanted him to.”