The UCSB women’s volleyball team, ranked #7 in the country, owns the best winning percentage of any Division I team in the nation.
If that’s not impressive enough, the Gauchos boast a record of 28-1 overall (18-0 in the Big West) and a conference title. Respect? Forget about it.
USC is ranked #1 in the country. The Trojans have the fourth-best winning percentage of any team in the country at 24-1 (17-1 in the Pac-10). USC easily won the Pac-10. For some reason, it gets all the respect in the world.
Tonight at 7 in the Thunderdome these two national powerhouses will sort things out in a battle that will not only have huge implications for NCAA seedings but will also be the last chance both teams have to figure out where they stand before heading into the postseason.
“We are going to play a team that has a 90 percent chance of making it to the Final Four,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said, “and it is going to be a good measuring stick for us.”
The Trojans have spent more time at #1 this year than any other team. Their only loss came at the hands of #4 Stanford in five games.
In order to win tonight, Santa Barbara must slow down the imposing Trojan offense with solid blocking and tenacious defense. Gregory knows that her team is smaller than USC but does not feel she needs to change anything in her normal game plan against the Trojans.
“We are not going to make any changes,” Gregory said. “We need to stay aggressive. They have one of the best offenses and are one of the best blocking teams, so we just need to try and serve tough and compete at the highest level.”
Likewise, the Gaucho players know that if they want to win, they are going to have to play their own game.
“I think that this is going to be fun,” sophomore libero Kristin Nelson said. “We have nothing to lose. This is a good chance for us to see how good we really are.”
A victory tonight would mean a lot to the Gaucho players and may even push the team back into the top five in the national rankings. A win would mean just as much to Gregory, who is shooting for her 700th career victory.
Gregory’s 600th victory came just as the current seniors first walked in the door here at UCSB. Setter Brooke Niles and outside hitter Danielle Bauer gave Gregory her 600th win in their first career game at Santa Barbara, four years ago. Tonight in their last regular season game, as the seniors are about to walk out the door, UCSB would like to tally number 700 for Gregory.
Lost in all of the pregame hype is the fact that tonight’s match will be the last regular season match for Niles, Bauer and senior outside hitter Courtney Guerra. The three have amassed a staggering 100-29 career record.
Niles and Bauer have spent their whole career at UCSB and have garnered numerous individual accolades as well as helped lead their team to the Elite Eight twice in their first three seasons. Guerra spent her first year at Cal Berkeley before deciding to transfer to UCSB for her final three seasons of competition.
“This is going to be that last regular season match of their careers,” Gregory said. “And it is against the #1 team in the country. What more could you ask for?”