If at first the PUC Men's Volleyball team merely aggravated the UC Davis Aggies Tuesday night in Pacific Auditorium, by the time the Pioneers had taken the first game, 25-21, they had become an actual threat. When the second game resulted in a 25-23 win for PUC, it appeared as if the Pioneers were in the position to mirror UC Davis' three game victory over PUC during the first game of the season.
PUC began with several momentum-building plays. Two big blocks shut down UCD's attempts to get on the scoreboard, and an ace from junior outside-hitter, Justin Gatling, pushed PUC ahead 4-1. Nervous energy appeared to misdirect PUC's offense temporarily. After the team settled down and played with control, the defensive gaps were tightened and they were able to execute offensively. Chris Hansen, sophomore outside-hitter, nailed a short set from senior Dorian Silva for the first game-point.
In the second game, PUC's scrappy defense kept them alive for the first few possessions. At the serve, defense-specialist Jeff Chamberlain caught UCD off-guard with a floater, the first of four aces for the senior. Jeff Gleason's exclamation-point kill put PUC up, 10-5. The Aggies rallied and tied 16-16. But a big block from Corey Matacio and Silva and a huge kill from Gatling destroyed UCD's comeback.
UCD was not ready to lie down in the third game, however. Although Lars Engeberg, senior middle-blocker, gave an impressive one-man show in the first few possessions, PUC was unable to sustain the energy displayed in the first two games. UC Davis beat PUC, 22-25, powered by the kills of outside-hitters, B.J. Haddad and Mike Tung.
PUC would not lose again. An enthusiastic home crowd encouraged the Pioneers toward victory. The Pioneers hit their stride and confidently executed both offensively and defensively. An ace by senior outside-hitter Sean Trace delighted the crowd and put PUC up, 18-15. UC Davis answered the challenge with a big kill by Rob Paterson, an outside-hitter from Santa Rosa, for a 21-18 sideout. Chris Hansen's impressive block scored another game-point for PUC, which finished the match in the next play and put the crowd on their feet.
Lars Engeberg and Justin Gatling led the Pioneers in kills, racking up twelve and eleven, respectively. From the service line, the team had seven aces and only seven service errors total, an improvement from recent games.
In his remarks after the game, Justin Gatling commented that PUC had played with "tons and tons of intensity," and after a couple recent bad games they were "now clicking." He also wanted to thank the crowd for their enthusiasm and for "picking us up to play at a higher level."
Head Coach David Rai was cautiously complimentary, citing defense and good team play as the main reasons for the win. However, he added that "this game really showed us where we need to be." He also pointed out the teams' exceptional blocking as a huge contributor to the win. Coach Rai stated that, although this season has not garnered a winning record, the team has risen to the challenge of playing against NAIA Division I and II powerhouses and looks forward to new challenges in the future.
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