In its final Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match of the regular season, the #5 UCSB men’s volleyball team fell to #1 Pepperdine in four games, 30-24, 30-26, 25-30, 30-25.
With the loss, the Gauchos’ (19-11 overall, 14-8 MPSF) four-match win streak was put to an end. On the other side of the court, Pepperdine (25-1, 21-1 MPSF) has now won its 22nd consecutive match. With their 21-1 MPSF record, the Waves have become the first team in the MPSF to win over 20 conference matches.
“Pepperdine is tough,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “They’ve only lost one game all year. Their team is very good, not big. They make their transition plays very good. They are tough on those transitions.”
Offensively, both teams matched up equally on the stat sheet. Each tallied 67 kills while Pepperdine held the slight advantage in hitting percentage with a .358 team average to the Gauchos’ .353. The disparity appeared in the blocking column. The Waves out-blocked the Gauchos 11 to seven.
Games one and two were close early on, but the Waves settled down and went on runs that put the game out of reach for the Gauchos. In game one, the Waves were helped by two different sets of back-to-back aces from sophomore opposite Paul Carroll and senior outside hitter Jon Grobe. In game one, Pepperdine out-hit UCSB .333 to .167. In the second game, both teams hit .452.
Game three was the first time the Gauchos tasted a lead all match. UCSB pulled ahead early, with the largest lead at 17-10. After that, the Waves never came closer than four, at 28-24. Thanks to a hitting percentage of .385, compared to Pepperdine’s .171, the Gauchos won game three 30-25.
“In the third game, we picked up the defense and blocked some good balls.” Preston said. “Overall, we just played good.”
Even though both teams were offensively equal in hitting, it was UCSB senior opposite Evan Patak who pulled ahead of all players. Patak, who leads the nation in kills, led all players with 30 kills, 2 aces and a .442 hitting percentage. Junior middle blocker Theo Brunner was second with 15 kills and led the Gauchos with four blocks and a .481 average. Senior middle blocker Kennedy rounded out the trio of Gauchos in double digit kills with 12.
Pepperdine was led by Carroll -number two on the nation’s kills list behind Evan Patak- who ended the night with 22 kills and eight blocks. Senior middle blocker Greg Gaudino completed the double-digit duo with 11 kills and seven blocks.
UCSB will receive a bye in the first round of the MPSF tournament and will host UCLA on April 21 in the second round of play.