Over the three-day weekend, the #11 UCSB men’s volleyball team recorded its second straight victory, defeating #12 USC and climbing back into .500-territory once again.
Santa Barbara (8-8 overall, 6-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)) defeated the Trojans (7-8 overall, 4-6 MPSF) 30-27, 26-30, 30-28, 30-25 in Los Angeles.
“[USC is] a solid team; they beat UCLA earlier in the season and almost beat BYU,” sophomore middle blocker Theo Brunner said. “They’re definitely a team we should beat and they’re close to us in the standing. So it’s good to separate ourselves from them at this point in the season.”
In the first set, UCSB secured an early lead and exploded after 8-5, not falling behind for the rest of the game. USC tried to even up the match late at a 27-26 score, but only scored one more point in the set to begin the night with a loss. Both teams hit their highest percentages on the night, as UCSB slammed .606 percent and SC was close behind, connecting with .556 percent of its attacks.
“We’re very confident with how we’re playing right now,” freshman setter Max Klineman said. “We’re playing really well. Beating Pepperdine last week was huge for us.”
The Gauchos were led by junior opposite Evan Patak, who picked up 25 kills, six blocks and three aces and was followed second by Brunner, who had 14 of his own kills and hit .500 on the night.
In the second game, the Trojans reversed the lead, as Santa Barbara trailed 8-3 and could not catch up by the end of the set.
“Yeah having Patak [back] has definitely helped us out,” junior outside hitter Bryan Berman said. “He is our work horse and the guy a lot of guys look to on the team. Him coming back has really sparked our team.”
What really fueled the Gauchos behind Patak was the second win on the night, leading USC two sets to one. Both teams battled back and forth until a USC hitting error and then solo block by sophomore middle blocker Michael Fisher to give UCSB the set point at 29-27. Game four was more of the same story, as both teams rallied back and forth until a tie at 12, when the Gauchos ran away with the lead.
“I think the goal for us right now is to make MPSF playoffs and that’s something we know we can do,” Klineman said. “These past two wins have shown that we’re definitely on track for where we want to be.”
Other notable performances on the Gaucho’s roster came from junior outside hitter Aaron Richman, who nearly scored a double-double with 11 kills and nine digs, while Berman almost did the same with 10 kills and seven digs of his own.
Santa Barbara will be back home this weekend for break in conference play to host Cal Baptist on Friday night at 7:05 in Rob Gym.