Atop the bleachers inside Robertson Gym this holiday weekend, a young girl sat with her fingers crossed. She didn’t want objects like candy or a brand-new toy to play with; instead she wished for a men’s volleyball win while seated among a crowd of Gaucho faithful.
With the help of energetic fans and a newfound confidence in their play, the Gauchos battled back from a deficit of 2-0 against San Diego last night, narrowly winning three straight games to capture the match 3-2. Santa Barbara also came from behind three times in four games on Saturday versus visiting Long Beach, grabbing their first MPSF season win.
“It was important to get our confidence back, but it was more important for us to play well,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “Our transition game still needs help, but now we’re ready to move on.”
After starting sluggishly against San Diego, Preston substituted in players from the bench to help motivate his struggling team.
“Our first two games were hideous, hitting-wise,” Preston said. “I really disliked the way we came out, but we had enough spirit and bench players to come away with a win. It’s a team victory for us.”
Apparently the subbing helped as the Gauchos posted far better attack and assist numbers in the final three games.
In their match against Long Beach, the Gauchos started strong with the help of three early kills by sophomore opposite Evan Patak. After being tied 16-16, the 49ers took the lead with critical blocks by their senior middle blocker Yassir Sliti, but Santa Barbara wouldn’t be silenced. The Gauchos came back with a 5-1 run following a 26-26 tie to take the first game 30-27.
Santa Barbara trailed early in the second game, but again battled back with key blocks and a better passing game to win 30-27. A dominating two-game lead disappeared after the 49ers won a decisive game three 30-19, and led game four 26-22.
Down again, with a win about to slip through their fingers, the Gauchos blocked four consecutive Long Beach shots thanks to freshman outside hitter Michael Fisher and senior outside hitter Nate Wack. Santa Barbara and Long Beach struggled through numerous match points until a clutch block by senior middle blocker Michael Kennedy put the win in Gaucho hands.
“[A win] like that was amazing,” Patak said. “It was nice that the games got postponed so that we could get more time in the gym. We got a lot more preparation out of it and came away with a win.”