After Friday night’s upset 3-1 victory over #2 Brigham Young, Santa Barbara’s winning wave closed out as the defending national champion Cougars split the weekend series, sweeping the UCSB men’s volleyball team 3-0.
The Gauchos – led by sophomore opposite Evan Patak, who recorded a season-high 32 kills – started strong by defeating BYU in four games Friday. On Saturday night BYU handed Santa Barbara its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference season loss in a dominating three-game sweep.
“Our game plan worked perfectly in the first game, but [BYU] made some changes to come out on top [on Saturday],” senior opposite Adam Ulfers said. “A win is an emotional high, but a loss is an emotional low. Our team needs to figure out how to sweep a series, and we just have to maintain our discipline in the future.”
With refined blocking and a much-improved attack Friday night, the Gauchos hit .405 to BYU’s .281. UCSB also out-blocked the Cougars 12-8.5, taking the match 30-26, 30-27, 30-32, 31-29. Santa Barbara took control in the first two games, but the Cougars weren’t going to allow a sweep, narrowly winning in the third.
“We all felt like we had the match in three games, but they came back,” Patak said. “We just had to stop their runs and battle it out. It was our killer instinct that won the match for us.”
After trailing 24-21 nearing the end of the fourth game, six Patak serves helped spark a 6-0 run, putting the Gauchos up 27-24. A small comeback by the Cougars was silenced thanks to a powerful kill by Patak to put the game and match away.
BYU was undoubtedly out of rhythm Friday but bounced back Saturday thanks in part to the play of junior outside hitter Victor Batista, who produced 23 kills and an attack percentage of .656 Saturday night.
“[Batista] is an international type player,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “He’s not going to come out and play badly two nights in a row.”
Reversing performances from the previous match, BYU bullied the Gauchos by hitting .506 to Santa Barbara’s .256. The Gauchos almost managed a win in game two, after tying the score at 30-30. The Cougars took the final match of the season 30-18, 32-30, 30-26.
“[BYU] played us a lot differently than Friday night,” Preston said. “We weren’t very smooth and it might have been the worst passing match we’ve had. However, [Friday] night we played a good match, and next weekend we’ll see if we can get good performances back to back.”