It will be a fond farewell tonight for nine of the seniors on the #5 UCSB men’s volleyball team.
The Gauchos (17-10 overall, 12-7 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) host #7 Cal State Northridge (16-12 overall, 10-9 MPSF) for what could be the final home match of the 2007 season. The Gauchos have already clinched a spot in the eight-team MPSF tournament and need to win two out of their final three games against Northridge, USC and Pepperdine to secure a home game in the tournament.
“I’m quite sure we can get [the home berth],” assistant coach Larry Milliken said. “In the last three years, we lost at CSUN and beat them here. I know we’re a better team than SC. We should beat them. Hopefully, when we get to Pepperdine, it will all be decided already. Hosting will be the question. We haven’t hosted in a good 10 years, so this is gigantic.”
The Gauchos, who have won three of their past four matches, bring a number of offensive threats to tonight’s match. However, the most prominent is senior opposite and MPSF Co-Player of the Week Evan Patak.
Patak is 13 kills away from becoming only the second Gaucho to reach 2,000 kills, and has already broken the single season ace record with his total of 100. The only other Gaucho over the 2,000 kill mark is Donnie Harris (1994-1997), who holds the all time kills record with 2,114. Patak has led the Gauchos in kills for 24 out of 27 matches, and has hit in double-digit kill territory for 25 matches, putting down 30 or more in six matches this season.
“His record has been done when it is rally scoring as opposed to side out scoring, so Donnie had more opportunities to get more swings,” assistant coach Larry Milliken said. “What he’s done in rally scoring, what he’s achieving, is amazing.”
Northridge comes into the match with consecutive victories against MPSF foes Pacific and Stanford that helped the Matadors climb two spots in the national rankings. Senior opposite Dan Rhodes leads the Matadors in kills with an average of 4.23 kills per game and has accumulated 300 kills for the second consecutive season.
Tonight, UCSB will say goodbye to Patak, outside hitters Aaron Richman, Bryan Berman, Derek Otte, and Armen Zakarian, as well as middle blocker David Kennedy, liberos Tyson Norton and Drew Wilson and setter Bart Kowalski.
“We need a big crowd tonight.” Milliken said. “This may be the last time to watch what could be called the best player in the nation. This could probably be the last home match. I’d like to see a big crowd tonight. We have to say goodbye to nine seniors and they won’t be back home until April 21.”