The #6 Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team dismantled the Trojan horse last night, constructing brooms out of the remaining rubble in the Gauchos’ uncontested sweep over unranked USC.
In their third straight win on the road, Santa Barbara (9-7 overall, 9-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) unwrapped the Trojans (4-13 overall, 1-9 MPSF) in three games 30-25, 30-26, 30-28, claiming sweet revenge for its defeat earlier in the season at the Elephant Bar Invitational.
“We knew our loss to [USC] at the E-Bar tournament was a fluke,” senior outside hitter Nate Wack said. “It feels pretty sweet to go into someone else’s gym and work them real quickly – and it gets us home at a decent hour.”
Even though the Gauchos struggled somewhat in developing their offensive attack, their passing and serving game stepped up to cover in its absence.
Junior setter, and MPSF Player of the Week, Bart Kowalski notched 42 assists with a .506 percentage, supporting a match-high 14 kills from sophomore outside hitter Jake Wiens and 13 from sophomore opposite Evan Patak, who also tossed up three out of the Gauchos’ six aces on the night.
“Our serving and passing really bailed us out,” Wack said. “[Kowalski] did what we needed and really spread the ball around for us. We didn’t go to our middles as much because it was more a spread-the-ball deal, so it wasn’t surprising that [Wiens] got more kills than [Patak].”
Senior libero Aaron Mansfield and sophomore setter Bryan Berman both recorded eight digs for the Gaucho defense while nine total team blocks helped pin the Trojans to an attack percentage of .182.
Even though Santa Barbara hit a meager .074 percentage in game one, they managed to pull out the early victory, sparking a streak of dominating play that left no way out for the Trojans, as the Gauchos went on to win the final two games.
“We did a good job containing their middles,” Mansfield said. “We just needed to keep the ball and the pressure on their side of the net. We didn’t hit well that first game, which probably hurt us, but our passing and blocking stayed on.”
The road win knocks Santa Barbara’s away record to 5-2, and with their fourth-place standing in the MPSF, the Gauchos are looking like healthy playoff candidates.
“Any time we can sweep a team on the road, it’s good for morale,” Mansfield said. “We have more confidence to play on the road now, and it should help us when it comes time for [the postseason].”