It’s deja vu all over again for the #5 UCSB men’s volleyball team, as the Gauchos will host #4 UCLA tomorrow night in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Quarterfinals. Last year, the Bruins defeated Santa Barbara in the MPSF play-in match, ending UCSB’s postseason run. The Bruins went on to win 14 straight games en route to the NCAA national championship.
Coming into tomorrow’s match, the Bruins (19-10 overall, 13-9 in the MPSF) have history on their side as they hold a 111-27 overall record against the Gauchos (14-8, 19-MPSF). This year, UCLA has defeated UCSB twice in three matches. Overall, the Bruins have a 24-6 record in the postseason since 1993, winning seven MPSF titles and six NCAA titles. With their recent sweep of UC San Diego, the Bruins have now won five straight matches, and 12 of their last 15.
“Their history speaks for itself,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “They are a tough team with great talent. They will always have great talent, and a good coach. [Last year] they were the seventh seed, and they started to play well at the end of the season.”
Both teams boast a formidable offense. UCSB is led by senior opposite Evan Patak, who was voted onto the All-MPSF first team and leads the nation with an average of 5.98 kills per game and 1.02 aces per game.
“[Patak] is having a great year,” Preston said. “He has been healthy for the year. He has led the team in almost every offensive category. He means a lot to the team. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
UCLA is led by senior opposite Steve Klosterman, who was voted to the All-MPSF second team. Klosterman is seventh in the conference with 4.16 kills per game.
“[Klosterman] is a very good opposite,” Preston said. “He receives a lot of their sets and is a good blocker. He is right there with [Patak and Pepperdine sophomore outside hitter Paul Carroll]. Klosterman is good, a very good hitter.”
Junior middle blocker Theo Brunner, who was also voted onto the All-MPSF first team, leads the Gauchos with a .548 hitting percentage and a 1.06 blocks per game. Brunner’s .531 conference hitting percentage is second in the MPSF. Senior outside hitter Bryan Berman has also been a presence on the court for the Gauchos. Berman is fourth on the team with a 2.22 kills per game average and second on the team with 161 digs.
“[Brunner] is pretty quiet,” Preston said. “He is a great hitter and usually has two blocks in his face. He hits high off the hands. He is a really good offensive middle. [Berman] is as stable as a rock. He is one of the captains on the team. He is an intense guy, intense competitor and gives us stability.”
The winner of tomorrow’s match will move on to face top-seeded #1 Pepperdine (24-1, 21-1 MPSF) on April 26.