It will be Gauchos versus Waves, Carroll versus Patak tonight in Malibu.
The #4 UCSB men’s volleyball team (20-11 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will face #1 Pepperdine (21-1 MPSF) in the semifinals of the MPSF tournament. The Waves will be fresh from their first-round bye, but the Gauchos are poised after defeating UCLA (19-11 MPSF) in front of a season high 1,157 fans at Rob Gym.
“We are confident and focused on playing a similar game [to the one against UCLA],” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “We need to be aggressive at the service line. We will play as hard as it takes for as long as the match takes. UCLA definitely gave us momentum to get to the game against Pepperdine.”
Pepperdine comes into tonight’s match with a .962 overall winning percentage, and has not lost a match since a 3-2 loss to Long Beach State on Jan. 13. The Waves are 2-0 against UCSB this season, with a sweep in Santa Barbara and a 3-1 win in Malibu.
The Waves bring a full arsenal to tonight’s game, boasting several All-MPSF selections. Junior setter Jonathan Winder received Player of the Year honors and was an All-MPSF First Team selection. Winder is the #2 setter in the nation, with an average of 13.36 assists per game. The most prominent player on the Waves is sophomore opposite Paul Carroll, another First Team All-MPSF selection. Carroll ranks second in the nation in kills with 5.67 a game, second in points at 6.80 per game, and fourth in aces with .579 a game. In these categories, Carroll trails Gaucho senior opposite Evan Patak.
“Pepperdine has a lot of weapons,” Richman said. “They are a well-rounded team. We need to match their energy. If we play smart, I think the players on our team match up well with them. We have Evan [Patak]. He matches up well with Paul Carroll. He is as strong as, maybe stronger than [Carroll], but we have so many others who contribute. We will match up well as long as we distribute the ball to everyone.”
The Gauchos continue their playoff run with a full roster of contributors. Aside from Patak, who leads the nation in kills, aces, and points per game, junior middle blocker Theo Brunner is #2 in the conference with a .531 hitting percentage.
“We are all really excited to play,” Richman said. “It will be two great teams, and a very exciting matchup. It is going to be a great match. [There is] a lot of history behind both teams. We have nothing to lose – we are trying to make history.”
First serve is set for 5:30 p.m. today in Malibu.