With the entire season on the line, the #5 UCSB men’s volleyball team exercised some demons against #4 UCLA (19-11 overall), defeating the Bruins in four games to continue on their quest for postseason success. The Gaucho victory came in front of a season-high 1,157 fans by scores of 30-17, 37-35, 27-30 and 30-27.
The Gauchos (20-11 overall) started out strong in game one, posting multiple runs including an 8-0 run that pushed UCSB ahead by 10 at 23-13. Santa Barbara ended the first game with back-to-back service aces from senior libero Tyson Norton, who came in to serve for senior middle blocker David Kennedy.
“[UCLA] were on their heels in the first game,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “I think the pressure just got to [the Bruins] and I think [senior outside hitter] Armen [Zakarian] just played tremendously all night.”
UCSB came back from 4-0 and 26-22 deficits in the second game and the game remained close until it was tied at 35. Senior opposite Evan Patak tallied one of his team-high 24 kills and Bruin senior opposite Steve Klosterman followed with an attack error to give the Gauchos a 2-0 lead.
UCLA gained control midway through game three to make it 2-1. The Gauchos quickly jumped to a four-point lead at 8-4 in game four and would hold the lead until the Bruins tied the game at 19-19. However, that would be the closest UCLA would get the rest of the way, as the Gauchos quickly rolled to a 30-27 victory eliminating the Bruins from the playoffs.
“It means a lot [to get the win],” Patak said. “The UCSB versus UCLA rivalry is very heated. We read articles that said UCLA is like the mama bear and we are just the little Gauchos. They came in with a lot of prestige and cockiness and we knew what was on the line and we came out strong and relentless.”
The Gauchos were led Patak who had a .288 hitting percentage, while junior middle blocker Theo Brunner completed the Gaucho duo in double-digits with 10 kills and a team-high seven blocks. Senior outside hitter Bryan Berman added seven kills and four blocks, while Kennedy contributed five blocks as the Gauchos out-blocked the Bruins 12.5 to four.
“We are now confident and [have] trust in our back row,” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “We know if we get touches in the front we will block them. We played tenacious defense and didn’t let many balls drop.”
The Bruins had three players in double-digit kill totals and were led by Klosterman. Klosterman had a match-high 28 kills, while freshman outside hitter Garrett Muagututia totaled 18 kills and senior outside hitter Paul George had 10 kills. UCLA totaled 31 service errors, compared to the Gauchos’ eight.
“Our bench and our starters had great energy tonight.” Richman said. “We have been mentally preparing for this match all week. It came down to keeping our focus and energy up.”