It will be home sweet home during the postseason for the UCSB men’s volleyball team after their sweep of USC on Wednesday night.
The #5 Gauchos (19-10 overall, 14-7 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) defeated the #12 Trojans (12-14, 9-12 MPSF) with scores of 30-24, 30-15, 30-25. The Gauchos did not make an attack error until the final frame, and hit .489 on the night.
“It was pretty crazy,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “The kids weren’t making errors. USC was not blocking or hitting well. We were hitting .739 at the end of the first game… We really passed the ball well last night. I think it was our best passing game all year.”
Senior opposite, and MPSF Co-Player of the Week Evan Patak led all players with 20 kills. For the Gauchos, he was only one of two players to record double-digit kills. Junior middle blocker Theo Brunner was second on the Gaucho squad with 13 kills and hit .800.
Junior outside hitter Juan Figueroa led the Trojans with 15 kills on the night. The Gauchos out-blocked USC 6.5 to one and outhit their opponent.489 to .182.
“[This win] puts [the Pepperdine match] in a whole different light,” Preston said. “Now we can kind of relax and hopefully we can go down there and prove our valor against them. It is no longer a must-win game, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. We were in a must-win mindset for the last four games, and now we are not.”
With this win, the Gauchos secured the fourth seed in the MPSF tournament, and will host fifth-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals April 21. The Gauchos have only one more regular season match to play, an away match against #1 Pepperdine (24-1, 20-1 MPSF) on Saturday. The Waves have now won their last 20 matches and if they can win the match against UCSB, Pepperdine will become the first MPSF team to win more than 20 conference wins in a single season.
“[Pepperdine] is really good.” Preston said. “They’ve only lost one match, and to only lose one match in the rally scoring era, and especially in our league… they are the whole package.”
Sophomore outside hitter Paul Carroll is Pepperdine’s equivalent to Patak, as he leads the Waves in kills (5.64 a game) and aces (.617 a game). These numbers place him second in the nation in kills, and third in aces per game.
“I was really impressed with [Paul Carroll] last time we faced them.” Preston said. “When we took away certain shots, he came back and made another. He is a crafty hitter.”
The Gauchos will face Pepperdine tomorrow in Malibu with the first serve set for 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast on KCSB 91.9 FM.