April 26, 2007
Malibu, Calif. - The top-ranked Pepperdine men's volleyball team rode a 13.5-5.0 advantage in blocks to a 3-1 victory over No. 4 UC Santa Barbara in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Tournament semifinal match Thursday at Firestone Fieldhouse.
Top-seeded Pepperdine (26-1), which won its 23rd consecutive match, took the opening set 30-23 before UCSB (20-12), the fourth seed, hit .594 in the second frame to win by a score of 30-24. The Waves won the following two games 30-26 and 30-20.
Pepperdine advances to take on the winner of the BYU/UC Irvine match in the MPSF Championship on Saturday, April 28. The winner of that match earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships May 3-5 at Ohio State.
In a battle between the two best opposite hitters in the nation, UCSB senior Evan Patak finished with a match-high 26 kills on .259 hitting. He also added five digs, three blocks, a service ace, and a match-best 28.5 points. Pepperdine's Paul Carroll amassed 22 kills and hit .381 while chipping in with eight digs, three blocks, and 23.5 points. Entering the match, Patak led the nation in kills, aces, and points and Carroll was second in kills and points and fourth in aces.
Patak, playing in his final career match, finished three kills short of becoming UCSB's all-time leader in that category. Donny Harris racked up 2,114 kills between 1994 and 1997. With his 26 smacks tonight, Patak ended with 2,112.
The Gaucho middle hitters were effective as Theo Brunner had 15 kills and two blocks and David Kennedy had nine kills and three blocks. Brunner hit just .324, but his season mark of .531 is a new school record.
Pepperdine had three players with double-digit kills. Joining Carroll was J.D. Schleppenbach with 18 and Greg Gaudino with 13. Schleppenbach did it all as he had 10 digs and seven blocks, both match-highs. Gaudino and Tom Hulse each had six blocks and setter Jonathan Winder, the MPSF Player of the Year, totaled 59 assists.
UCSB entered the match with a .365 team hitting percentage, but hit just .299 against the Waves. Pepperdine swung at .402 as Hulse hit .643 and Gaudino was at .571.
The match featured several long rallies and unbelievable digs by both teams. Down by eight points at 23-15 in the third game, the Gauchos mounted a run that nearly gave them the game. Two Pepperdine errors and a kill by Patak forced the Waves to take a timeout. The momentum stayed with UCSB after the break as Michael Fisher one-armed a ball that came straight down off of the low ceiling for a kill. After kills by Schleppenbach and Kennedy, three consecutive hitting errors by Pepperdine brought UCSB within one point at 24-23. Winder and Fisher then traded kills before the Waves tallied two straight points on a Gaudino kill and a triple block by Carroll, Schleppenbach, and Gaudino, giving Pepperdine a 27-24 advantage. Two UCSB service errors the rest of the way helped give the set to the Waves.
Pepperdine has won the last four meetings between the two squads, dating back to last season. It was the first time that UCSB and Pepperdine had met in the MPSF Tournament. The Gauchos are now 1-5 all-time in league semifinal matches.