Evan Patak was an untamed beast when he came to play volleyball at UCSB. More than 2,000 kills later, the senior hitter has developed some refinements in his game, but he still pounds the ball with youthful exuberance.
Built like an NFL tight end (6Ê¹8Ê° and 255 pounds), Patak has led the Gauchos to a No. 5 national ranking and a berth in the upcoming Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) playoffs. Depending on the outcome of their final regular-season matches-Wednesday night, April 11, at USC (past The Indy deadline) and Saturday at Pepperdine-the Gauchos hope to host a quarterfinal match on April 21. With a 13-7 record in the MPSF, UCSB needs one more win or, if that doesn’t happen, they need UCLA (11-9) to lose one.
Patak had a match-high 25 kills as UCSB swept Cal State Northridge (30-24, 31-29, and 30-21) at Robertson Gym last Saturday, April 7. He became the second Gaucho to pile up 2,000 career put-aways, raising his total to 2,012. Donny Harris set the school record of 2,114 in 1997, before rally scoring was introduced. Because points were then scored only by the serving team, matches could go on indefinitely, allowing Harris to pile up the side-out spikes.
“Evan’s numbers are amazing,” UCSB coach Ken Preston said, “because of the scoring system [points on every serve] and the fact that he missed nine matches last year.”
Patak pointed out he is only as good as his teammates. “Our passers and setters have to do their jobs,” he said. “Every point is the result of contacts by two or three different people.” But it’s the last contact by Patak, nicknamed “Tank” at a national team tryout, that can be devastating to UCSB’s opponents.
Fellow senior Armen Zakarian was a high school rival of Patak’s in Northern California. “He’s absolutely the hardest hitter I’ve ever met,” Zakarian said. “He hit a ball into the face of Ari Katz, one of my best buddies. He fell down and had to be subbed out. Ari came back later in the same game, and Evan put him down again. Ari can brag he got Molten [a volleyball brand] tattooed on his face by Evan Patak.”
Patak has put on some jaw-dropping displays in college. “He’s still raw, but he has the ability to be awesome,” Preston said. “As a sophomore, he had 48 kills against Stanford. In the fifth game, he took 15 swings and put down 13 balls without an error. [Former Gaucho assistant] Todd Rogers said, ‘I don’t know if I believe what we’re seeing.'”
Another potent Patak weapon is his serving. During a pair of road matches this season, he slammed 10 service aces in 36 attempts, with only one error. “I’ve figured out what it takes to be a consistent jump server,” he said. “I used to have the heat but not the consistency, and I’d make errors.”
Patak also has figured out what it takes to be a student-athlete at UCSB. He missed the last nine matches of 2006 because of academic probation. “I brought it on myself,” he said. “I’m a pretty big procrastinator, and I finally got bit. I let down everyone-my teammates, my parents, and my coaches. At that point, I had two options-drop out, or turn it around.” The fifth-year senior from Pleasanton, California, took the latter approach, and he is on schedule to graduate in June with a degree in sociology. “I’m just as proud of that as anything else Evan has done,” Preston said.
After carrying the Gauchos as far as they can in the postseason, Patak and middle blocker Theo Brunner, a junior, have been invited to try out for the U.S. team that will compete in the World University Games this summer in Thailand.