Last night’s men’s volleyball game was touted as a battle between two stars, senior opposite Evan Patak and #3 UCLA’s senior opposite Steve Klosterman, with Klosterman the favorite to win. When the dust settled though, it was Patak who won the battle, and the #6 Gauchos who won the match.
Pulling off a five game upset over the defending national champion Bruins (2-4 overall, 0-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation), Santa Barbara (5-1 overall, 3-0 MPSF) trailed by two games in the match before winning three straight games to wrestle away the victory inside Rob Gym.
The Gauchos entered this match with an undefeated MPSF record and improved upon their conference perfection with a 31-33, 27-30, 30-28, 30-27, and 15-6 win.
“[The win] was huge, they were defending national champs,” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “But we came out with energy and enthusiasm. We were loving the crowd and they supported us all the way.”
In game one, both teams exchanged points and leads, with the highest UCLA lead coming at 6-3. The Bruins eventually won the game 33-31 off of a UCLA block.
Both teams blew three-point leads in the second game, but Klosterman would take the lead for UCLA off a solo block, followed by a kill. Klosterman finished the match with a team-high 22 kills, helping UCLA win game two 30-27 and head into game three up two games to none.
“I don’t think we played that well in the first two games,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “Our transitions were off. Every time we had the opportunity to score, we didn’t produce.”
In game three, UCLA jumped to a quick 8-4 lead. After the Gauchos later tied the game at nine a piece, both teams exchanged leads until UCSB took their final lead of the game at 28-27 thanks to a three-man block at the net. A final kill from Richman, who finished the night with 15 kills, shut down the Bruins as the Gauchos won game three 30-28.
In game four, the Gauchos managed to take a 27-25 lead late, and would go on to win 30-28, tying up the match at two games apiece. In a decisive game five, the Gauchos took an 8-4 lead early. UCLA could not get any closer though, as the Gauchos then exploded for a 7-2 run to take the game 15-6.
This is the second come-from-behind, five-game match the Gauchos have played this season, the first coming against Pacific on Jan. 12.
“Evan [Patak] got hot in the last two games, and Richman did as well.” Preston said. “I also thought that this was [David] Kennedy’s best college volleyball match he has played ever. He played really well… It was a great team game.”
Patak finished the night with a match-high 31 kills, nine away from his total posted against Pacific, and a team-leading two aces. Three Gauchos recorded double-digit kills totals, with Patak, Richman, and senior outside hitter Bryan Berman who knocked down 12. Senior middle blocker David Kennedy finished with six kills and 8 blocks.
The Bruins out-blocked the Gauchos 15.5 to 12. 5 while three players also posted double digit numbers. Klosterman finished with 13 kills, senior outside hitter Paul George finished with 16 and freshman outside hitter Garrett Muagutuia finished with a team-high 22. George also led UCLA with six aces.
The Gauchos next face undefeated #1 Irvine on Saturday Jan 20 at 2 p.m.
“Both [UCLA and UCI] are up there in the rankings.” Richman said. “UCI is tough, but we are ready to battle them.