If ever there was a make-or-break weekend for the Gauchos, this is it. Stuck in a five-game losing streak that has left the squad in ninth place and one-and-a-half games out of the playoff picture, Santa Barbara is set to host Pacific tonight followed by #1 Stanford on Saturday night.
“These games are basically must wins,” junior middle blocker Scott Slaughter said.
With five conference matches remaining, the Gauchos will need to creep into the top eight in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) to merit an automatic bid to the postseason conference tournament.
“We absolutely have to win at least three out of the five games,” Slaughter said. “And it all starts with this weekend.”
Heading into tonight and tomorrow, Santa Barbara does hold the confidence of having already beaten both of these teams this season. Currently in last place in the MPSF with a 0-16 record, Pacific should provide a great opportunity to end the team’s five-game skid.
Stanford will prove to be a much tougher test for the Gauchos. The Cardinals are currently surging, riding an eight-game win streak that has catapulted them into first place in the MPSF. On Jan. 28, UCSB upset Stanford 3-1 on the road, led by junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel’s 23 kills and junior opposite Cullen Irons’ 22.
“We definitely have confidence in knowing that we beat them earlier this season. We have done it before and we can do it again,” Slaughter said.
Analyzing their first meeting and Stanford’s more recent action may prove to be the difference-maker for the Gauchos in the match.
“Stanford has been playing better than anybody lately. We have and will be watching a lot of film including that of the first game,” Slaughter said. “We are really going to key in on the things we did well in the first game, but also be ready to execute new plans of attack.”
Ultimately, it may be win or go home for the Gauchos as the end of the MPSF regular season approaches.
“At this point, it really all comes down to winning,” Menzel said.