The #4 Pepperdine men’s volleyball team upset the #3 UCSB men’s volleyball team Saturday with a 32-30, 33-31 and 30-18 defeat in front of 1,068 fans at Rob Gym.
In game one, there were several lead changes, with Pepperdine (7-1 overall, 6-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) jumping to a quick 6-4 lead. The Gauchos (8-3 overall, 6-2 MPSF) regained the lead at 9-8, thanks in part to two kills and an ace by senior opposite Evan Patak. When the score was 24-18, the game seemed to be in favor of the Gauchos, but after a service error by senior setter Bart Kowalski and 12-6 run by Pepperdine, game one ended with a Waves victory of 32-30.
“We didn’t get it done in the first two games,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “We had opportunities, definitely. In the first game, up 24-18, and we just got to win that gym. We gave it away.”
Game two was again a back-and-forth game for both teams, as the Gauchos jumped to an 8-5 lead, and at 11-7 the Waves called a timeout. Pepperdine then went on a 10-7 run to pull within one, and forced UCSB to call a timeout of its own. After a contested play from Pepperdine’s senior middle blocker Tom Hulse’s attack error, a replay was called. Pepperdine ended up delaying game point until 33-31, taking a two-set lead. In the first two sets, Pepperdine fought off five game points against the Gauchos.
“We made very timely errors,” Patak said. “They are a good team, we just made mistakes. We defeated ourselves in the first two and they outplayed us in the third.”
Game three was full of Gaucho errors and Pepperdine took advantage of them, easily winning game three 30-18. UCSB never held a lead in the final game, and the loss ended the Gauchos’ three-match winning streak, and increased Pepperdine’s current match win streak to four.
“We choked a lot and we’ve just got to wear this loss,” junior outside hitter Michael Fisher said. “It was just one battle in the war, but the war is not over.”
Patak led the Gauchos with 24 kills and two aces. Junior middle blocker Theo Brunner led the Gauchos with a .667 hitting clip. For Pepperdine, sophomore outside hitter Paul Carroll recorded 19 kills, three aces and a .531 hitting clip to lead the team. Pepperdine out-blocked the Gauchos 12.5 blocks to four. Pepperdine’s Hulse led both teams with eight blocks and zero errors.
“They are hot on the block,” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “They just hit us out of the system. Our hitting fell apart. Their height really worked to their advantage.”
The crowd of 1,068 was the largest crowd for a men’s volleyball game this season and it forced the event staff to open up Rob Gym’s second level for the first time in six years. The crowd was not a fact that went unnoticed by the players.
“It was amazing,” Richman said. “It was a fun game to play. It was great to see everyone out. We have a great chance this year. It’s good to see people rallying behind us.”