The #4 UCSB men’s volleyball team broke out the brooms and did some cleaning this past weekend in Southern California, as the Gauchos (7-2 overall, 5-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) swept both #8 Long Beach State and unranked UC San Diego.
“[This weekend] was an opportunity to beat teams that we know we should beat,” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “We can’t underestimate teams in our league. There are a lot of teams in our leagues that are underestimated. It was good to put these teams down.”
Friday, the Gauchos faced Long Beach (4-4 overall, 2-3 MPSF) and dealt the 49ers a 31-29, 30-16 and 30-25 loss. This was the Gauchos’ first win over Long Beach since February of 2005.
“I don’t think we beat Long Beach in three ever,” Richman said. “It’s definitely been a long time. They were a great team to play.”
As a team, the Gauchos finished with a hitting percentage of .430, a total of 49 kills and 10 aces, seven of which came in game two. UCSB also out-blocked its opponents nine to three. Senior opposite Evan Patak led the Gauchos with a match-high 17 kills, six aces, four blocks and a .448 hitting clip. Senior middle blocker David Kennedy led the Gauchos in hitting with a .667 percentage, including 11 kills.
“I credit our serving. We served a tough game and gave us a chance to work on our three-man block and our defense,” Richman said. “Patak had a lot of aces against Long Beach and that helped. We served them out of the court and took them out of the system early on.”
Saturday, the Gauchos defeated unranked UC San Diego (2-4 overall, 1-4 MPSF) 30-17, 30-25, 30-19, and recorded their highest team hitting percentage of .448, compared to UCSD’s .189 mark. UCSB has hit over .400 in seven of their nine matches this season.
Patak once again led the Gauchos with 18 kills and a team-high five digs. Patak also recorded a .560 hitting percentage and four aces. Junior middle blocker Theo Brunner recorded 10 kills, and a .529 hitting percentage. Kennedy contributed a .538 hitting percentage and seven kills. The Gauchos once again recorded 10 aces.
“If you serve really well, you keep them out of the game,” junior outside hitter Michael Fisher said. “You make it a more predictable offense. Also, another thing is if you practice against good servers, then you are much more prepared. UCSD served poorly, and because they practiced against weak servers, they were not prepared to take jump serves from [Patak], or [Bryan] Berman.”
All match long the Gauchos held leads, including a 10-point lead in game three at 29-19. The closest UCSD trailed was a four-point deficit in game two at 29-25.
“When you play big teams, there is this adrenaline rush, during a high pressure environment,” Fisher said. “With these past two teams, they made a lot of errors. We just were taking care of business, and minimize the points they scored. … We were more focused on our game and doing things right. It was a good weekend.”