They say that your next match is always the biggest.
If this statement holds true, then tonight’s Central Coast showdown at the Thunderdome between #6 UCSB and #10 Pepperdine will be the most important match of this season for the Gaucho women’s volleyball team.
“We want to win every game possible,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “Our goal is not to go undefeated, but to be in every match that we play.”
Gregory’s goal may not be to go undefeated, but it is definitely a possibility. Santa Barbara is currently 23-0 and has only seven matches, including tonight’s, remaining on the regular season schedule.
There have been rumors in the volleyball community as of late that while the Gauchos are undefeated, they have gone largely untested this season. That is why many think that, although UCSB is ranked four spots higher than the Waves, the squad will be an underdog tonight when it battles a team with a paltry 16-6 record.
But a closer look at the numbers reveals that while the Gauchos have faced just three teams all season ranked in the top-25 nationally, Pepperdine has faced six.
Even though, the Gauchos are considered the underdog, they won’t let the title get in the way of their anticipation for tonight’s big match.
“I think that Santa Barbara has a history of being the underdog no matter what match we play in and no matter who we play,” senior outside hitter Courtney Guerra said. “If we didn’t take that attitude into every match that we play, I don’t think we would be where we are today.”
Where the Gauchos are today just so happens to be one stop lower in the national poll than last week’s position. Last weekend, #6 Stanford upset #1 USC, propelling the Cardinal ahead of the Gauchos. Despite dropping in the polls, many feel as though the Gauchos must win the rest of their games if they are to have any chance of hosting one of the four regions in the NCAA Tournament.
“Whether we win or not, I think that hosting will be up in the air,” Guerra said. “Obviously, winning would help.”
When asked how she felt tonight’s match would affect her team’s chance of hosting a regional, Gregory declined to comment and stated that she would rather discuss the match against the Waves. Gregory has coached the Gauchos to play one way all season long: to focus on one match at a time this season and not take any team for granted.
Gregory knows that she won’t have to worry about her team being motivated to play tonight.
“We lost to Pepperdine last year, so there is going to be plenty of motivation to play well. We will have to play our best to beat them.”
Pepperdine Head Coach Nina Matthies knows that her team will be playing with the same tight focus as the Gauchos. “Our goal all season long has been to take it one match at a time and try to stay focused.”
Tonight in the Thunderdome there will be two focused teams, but only one will emerge with a victory and Central Coast bragging rights for a year.