Even with the support of the largest crowd to fill Rob Gym this season, the Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team couldn’t knock off #1 UCLA on Friday night.
Despite coming back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the match at two games apiece, the Gauchos (5-6 overall, 5-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) came up short in game five, falling 3-2 to the Bruins (10-1 overall, 6-1 MPSF).
“We just weren’t playing our game early on,” sophomore opposite Evan Patak said. “We started playing better in the second game, and the fact that we could come back like that to make it close really says a lot about our team.”
The Gauchos struggled early on – a typical occurrence thus far this season – and the Bruins capitalized on Santa Barbara’s sluggish start to win game one 30-20. Even after the Gauchos stepped it up in game two, UCLA topped the scoreboard again, winning 30-25.
UCLA outside hitter Jonathan Acosta and opposite Allan Vince made sure Santa Barbara was out of rhythm throughout the game, as their performance on both sides of the ball showed. Acosta hit a Bruin-high 15 kills and Vince hit eight, while both stuffed the Gauchos with two blocks each.
After posting a meager attack percentage of -.031 in its first game, Santa Barbara improved in game two, but the Bruins’ .542 hitting dominated once again.
“I’m not too stoked with my performance,” Patak said. “My hitting percentage wasn’t very good and I’m not satisfied.”
Patak racked up a match-high 26 kills on the night, but the surprise performance of sophomore outside hitter Jake Wiens helped spark the Gaucho comeback in game three.
Wiens recorded 17 kills, second-best on the night and a match-high three service aces, but the Bruin blocking overshadowed Santa Barbara’s attack numbers.
“I’m pleased with my performance, and it was good to have the advantage of the home gym,” Wiens said. “After we got fired up in game two, it was one of the most disappointing feelings to lose in such a close game.” The Gauchos could not capitalize off numerous service errors committed by UCLA, a team that doesn’t allow many opportunities for its opponents. After winning game four 30-22 with momentum in its favor, Santa Barbara allowed the Bruins to pull away from a 9-9 deadlock in game five to win 15-12.
“It was a rough game,” Patak said. “It’s so much more painful to lose a game like that, where we came so close but didn’t come away with a [win].”