Setting up the perfect kill, junior setter Bart Kowalski can perform in the clutch just like a veteran mobster still clinging to his prime.
After winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week award last week, thanks to superb performances against #6 Long Beach State and San Diego. Kowalski is determined to continue his stellar setting to help the #5 Gauchos to a national championship.
Kowalski recorded a combined 103 assists in the two matches, helping Santa Barbara reach a hitting percentage of .617, and continued to set effectively against USC, notching 42 assists along with a kill.
“[Receiving the award] was totally unexpected; I never thought I’d receive it,” Kowalski said. “It’s great that we’ve been playing well as a team though and our offense is becoming a lot more efficient.”
Having already amassed 429 assists, while averaging just shy of 10 per game, Kowalski is a powerful asset for the Gaucho offense. His ability to spread the ball effectively has given Santa Barbara a multi-faceted attack, especially highlighted as of late with the addition of sophomore outside hitter Jake Wiens. Add in sophomore opposite Evan Patak and the powerful veteran middle blocker Michael Kennedy, and Kowalski’s options on offense seem limitless.
“I thought the [Player of the Week] award is reflective of the good matches he had last week against Long Beach and San Diego and it is well deserved,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “He is a feisty guy and has a lot of energy. He’s a fighter.”
Kowalski, who struggled shortly after the start of the season, has shared playing time with junior setter Dane Jensen, as both are more than capable of dispersing the volleyball to all locations on the court.
“We’ve pretty much shared time throughout our career,” Kowalski said. “Whoever is not starting is always ready to play. I don’t mind and I’m sure [Jensen] doesn’t either; I enjoy the competition and I think it’s how everyone should play.”
The talk of a national championship seems justifiable for Santa Barbara, currently ranked fifth in the nation. Kowalski believes that the momentum the team has been building can lead it to its ultimate goal at the end of the season.
“We’ve definitely got what it takes to make it [to the national championships],” Kowalski said. “We’ve beaten some really good teams and it’s building momentum right now so we can make it [to the championships].”
Facing off against Pacific tonight at 7:05 p.m. in Rob Gym, the Gauchos look to continue spreading the ball and exploit the weaknesses of the Tiger defense.
“We’re just taking care of our side,” Preston said. “[Pacific] is at full strength and they’ve got a good middle blocker. We need to defend what they do well and defend their big guys. We just need to take care of them the same way we do against everyone else.”