The Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team was guilty of killing conference rivals this weekend, as volleyballs flew while Gaucho opponents fell.
The #7 Gauchos defeated #10 Pacific (7-4 overall, 3-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) and #9 Stanford (3-6 overall, 2-4 MPSF) this Friday and Saturday in their first road trip of the season. Santa Barbara’s exceptional performance moves it to 5-1 in conference play and 5-4 overall.
“[This weekend] was a big confidence booster for us,” senior middle blocker Mike Nelson said. “It’s the first time in five or six years that we’ve won some road games up there, and we’ve already doubled our wins on the road from last year.”
Sophomore All-American opposite Evan Patak blazed through Stanford on Saturday night by smashing 48 kills against the Cardinal defense, a modern-day American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II single-match record and personal career high. Patak totaled 71 kills on the weekend, helping the Gauchos capture an impressive 2-0 start in road matches.
“We kept feeding [Patak] the ball, and he kept putting it away,” Nelson said. “He was phenomenal, and I guess it was just one of those nights where he was feeling it.”
The Gauchos dropped a game twice in the matchup but squeaked through in the final game to win in five (23-30, 30-24, 28-30, 30-24, 18-16).
“We kept telling ourselves between games that we could come back and win it,” sophomore setter Bryan Berman said. “Once Patak took over, we just rode him for the rest of the way. The wins will definitely give us more of a swagger in the gym, and now we aren’t afraid of anyone.”
Stanford struggled all night in its attempt to shut down Patak, as his record kill count and .527 average were uncontested.
“Our guys are playing really hard, but in order to be successful in the MPSF we have to eliminate mistakes and find a way to shut down other teams’ big hitters,” Stanford Head Coach Don Shaw said to Stanford Media Relations.
Against Pacific on Friday night, Santa Barbara was blown out in its first game 30-19 but tossed the loss aside to breeze through the Tigers in three straight games 30-22, 30-23, 30-23. The victory marked the first road win of the season for the Gauchos and gave them some confidence going into Stanford on Saturday night.
Patak managed to record an impressive 23 kills against Pacific, while teammates Berman and senior middle blocker Michael Kennedy notched 13 and 11 kills, respectively.
“I felt I played really well [Friday night],” Berman said. “We were all hitting well, and I didn’t feel the UOP blocking slowed us down one bit.”