Feb. 21, 2007
Santa Barbara, Calif. - In a heavyweight battle between two of the top three men's volleyball teams in the nation, third-ranked UC Santa Barbara came up short and was defeated, 3-1, by No. 2 UC Irvine Wednesday in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play at Robertston Gymnasium. The Gauchos had their four-match win streak snapped as the Anteaters have won the past four match-ups between the two squads.
UCSB (12-4, 10-3 MPSF) won the opening game 30-22, but UC Irvine (16-3, 10-3 MPSF) came back to take the next three sets by scores of 30-27, 30-18, and 30-25. Both teams are now tied for second place in the conference behind top-ranked Pepperdine.
The Anteaters hit .504 for the match compared to UCSB's .303 attack percentage. Irvine was tough at the net as well and out-blocked Santa Barbara 10.0 to 4.5.
The major turning point of the night came in the third game as UCSB, which entered the match ranked second nationally with a .373 hitting percentage, hit -.042 with eight kills and nine errors in 24 swings. It was the first time this season that the Gauchos hit in the negative in any game. In contrast, the Anteaters hit .542 in the frame.
UCSB is now hitting at a .369 clip through its 16 matches compared to .305 for opponents.
Opposite hitter Evan Patak posted a match-high 26 kills and added four aces for the Gauchos, while middle Theo Brunner totaled 10 kills. Libero Ben Brockman had a match-high seven digs and setter Bart Kowalski amassed 50 assists in the loss.
UC Irvine, which won its fourth consecutive match, had four players hit double figures in kills. Matt Webber led with 16, Jayson Jablonsky and David Smith each put away 15, and Cole Reinholm recorded 11. Smith hit a torrid .938 with no errors in 16 attacks and also had a match-high six blocks. Setter Brian Thornton racked up 64 helpers and had a team-best five digs. Aaron Harrell, the AVCA National Player of the Week, hit .538 with eight kills and added three digs and four blocks. The Anteaters committed a stunning 21 service errors on the night.
It was UCSB's second loss to UC Irvine this season. The Gauchos went up two games to none and ended up losing 3-2 in Irvine on Jan. 20. UCSB's last win against UCI came on Jan. 6, 2006 as the Gauchos topped the Anteaters 3-2 in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara takes to the road for its next four matches. It plays at No. 7 UCLA Feb. 23 and at No. 10 Cal State Northridge Feb. 28 before traveling to Indiana for a pair of non-league contests against No. 6 Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne March 2-3.