After two fairly smooth sets, the #8 UCSB men’s volleyball team battled out four games against internationally talented Cal Baptist University and came out on top to record its third consecutive win – its longest winning streak of the season.
The Gauchos (9-8 overall, 6-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) cruised past Cal Baptist (7-7 overall) early on and squeezed out the win, 30-24, 30-21, 27-30 and 38-36.
In the past two years, Cal Baptist has rolled over Santa Barbara in every match they played. This season alone, the Lancers have beaten some of the Gauchos’ MPSF opponents.
“This team has a lot of experience… and this win really made me proud,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “That team outnumbers us 1,000 percent because some of those guys are the best in their countries.”
Ghanaian internationals senior outside hitter Seidu Ajanako and junior opposite Shamsu Awudu combined to record 53 kills for the Lancers.
In the first set, Santa Barbara fell behind after an early 3-3 tie, but kept within two points. Behind junior outside hitter Bryan Berman’s serves, UCSB notched five consecutive points to pull out from an 11-11 tie. Berman contributed greatly to all of the team’s efforts, recording a double-double, with 20 putaways and 10 digs.
“I felt really good out there tonight,” Berman said. “[Freshman setter] Max [Klineman] was setting well and we were very focused on defense. These guys are amazing and are very smart and athletic.”
The second set was the most efficient for the Gauchos, who led for all but the first two points of the game. UCSB shut the door on the Lancers with four points from Berman’s serves and three from sophomore middle blocker Theo Brunner.
The final two sets brought the most action of the night. In the third set, the two teams were tied 15 times before the Lancers took off with the game after being tied at 22. The combination of four Gaucho hitting and serving errors in the last eight points of the set helped Cal Baptist secure its only victory of the night.
“This was definitely a team we wanted to beat because of our past record against them,” Klineman said. “We like playing at home, because our crowd’s awesome here and there’s nothing better than that.”
Early in the fourth set, the Gauchos fell behind by seven points. Behind Klineman’s serves, UCSB secured three points to knot the game at 27. When Ajanako disputed one of the ref’s calls and received a yellow card, Santa Barbara was awarded an extra point to find its first lead of the set, 28-27. The teams rallied back and forth for the next 10 points until a hitting error by the Lancers gave Berman the opportunity to drop in an ace, winning the set.
Cal Baptist’s 36 points in the final set was the most allowed by the Gauchos this season.