Sears Tower and the Empire State Building may be tall, but if they ever witnessed the towering Gaucho sophomore Evan Patak take the court in Rob Gym, they’d wish for the ability to spike volleyballs just like the 6’8″ killing machine.

Having already amassed 278 total kills in the 13 matches played thus far in the season, the opposite from Pleasanton, Calif. – who was named the National Recruitment of the Year last season – has helped push the Gaucho men’s volleyball team to a #7 national ranking.

“[Patak] has the ability to be the difference in matches,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “He hits a heavy ball and he’s the guy we’re going to a lot. If you can stop him, then you can stop us.”

Leading Santa Barbara with 21.4 kills per match, six kills per game and adding 24 total service aces, Patak has become the go-to guy for the Gaucho attack and looks to be a candidate for this season’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation MVP award as well.

“I like the challenge,” Patak said. “I know that I can produce and I know I’m capable of doing well. I set high expectations for myself and I don’t expect anything less.”

Outside of Santa Barbara, Patak competed with Team USA in the World University Games last summer, helping the team capture a bronze medal with his international standout performances.

“It was great experience to play internationally and it was really awesome,” Patak said. “It was definitely an eye-opener though, playing such a high level of volleyball and experiencing all the work that goes into it.”

A shoulder injury caused Patak to start the 2005 collegiate season slowly, but after Santa Barbara’s poor performance at the Elephant Bar Invitational, he turned the corner.

Patak blasted through an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I-II single-match record against Stanford on Jan. 29, piling up 48 kills in the five-game win for the Gauchos. The record kills helped Patak achieve his first of two back-to-back AVCA Player of the Week awards for the season.

“[Patak] can single-handedly take over a game from the serving and hitting line,” sophomore setter Bryan Berman said. “He’s a great guy and I love having him on the team.”

Besides being a statistical leader, Patak is clearly one of the morale leaders on the team as well. However, he explained that he’d be nowhere without the help of his teammates.

“I try to be real vocal and talk to them a lot,” Patak said. “I’ve got to be a leader as much as I can and do whatever I can to help the team. This is the most team-based team I’ve been on. We’re all committed to working hard and we feel like one. It’s nice to have 20 guys backing you up, all going for the same thing.”

Patak’s goal for the season is to win the National Championship and he has confidence that the Gauchos can accomplish their goal.

“Our first priority is winning a [National Championship] ring,” Patak said. “I feel more confident in our team than the record may show. We’ve got a great team and having fun with them is not an issue. It’s all I could really ask for.”