Last night, the #11 UCSB men’s volleyball team pulled off the biggest upset of the season, washing over #2 Pepperdine in five full nerve-racking sets.
Santa Barbara (8-8 overall, 6-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation [MPSF]) was able to come from behind after losing the first set to defeat the Waves (7-4 overall, 7-4 MPSF) 26-30, 30-27, 35-37, 20-30, 15-13.
“This was a huge win for us, coming off a few losses,” junior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “[Junior opposite Evan] Patak was phenomenal. This is really going to help us out and give us the confidence we need for the next upcoming matches.”
After Patak went missing from the Gaucho roster for the past two weeks, he made his first complete return to the lineup, leading both teams with 29 kills. Seven of those putaways came from the set that changed the pace of the night, as UCSB was able to extend the game into extra points behind its main attacker.
From the beginning of the third set, both teams appeared evenly matched. Santa Barbara fell behind after an early 12-12 tie, but managed to come back nine points later and knot up the score at 21. From then on, the Gauchos and the Waves were deadlocked 10 more times, until a 35-point tie. Behind two of freshman setter Max Klineman’s serves, the Gauchos were able to take a 36-35 lead and then pull out the win, thanks to a Pepperdine hitting error.
“After three really tight sets with Irvine last weekend, we were finally able to win a close match,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “Unfortunately, we let up in the fourth set, but we were able to keep our confidence up and win another close game. But that’s volleyball.”
Changing the momentum completely, Santa Barbara came off the third-set stunner and quickly fell behind 10 points, trailing the Waves 14-4. The deficit resonated through the rest of the game, as Pepperdine held UCSB to its lowest hitting clip of the night, a mere .059.
Patak started looking like his usual dominant self in the fifth and final match, to again reverse the team’s momentum.
“Tonight was awesome,” Patak said. “I still feel a little rusty after sitting out two weeks. … But it’s good to be back in the swing of things and I think this really brings up our team’s whole morale.”
The Gauchos were successfully able to pull off the upset behind a .295 hitting percentage, which fell short to Pepperdine’s own .374 clip on the night. Individual performances like junior outside hitter Bryan Berman’s 17 kills, junior middle blocker David Kennedy’s 10, and Richman’s eight putaways, helped UCSB overcome the lower overall hitting percentage.
The Gauchos will pick back up Saturday night as they travel to Los Angeles, Calif., to face #12 USC.