After 16 games on the road, the UCSB women’s volleyball team will finally get its first chance to play in the Thunderdome this season. UCSB will face off against Pacific on Friday and UC Davis on Saturday. The Gauchos are currently 8-6 overall and 1-1 in Big West play.
“We’re just so grateful [to play at home],” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “It’s just what we needed … but the biggest thing is not to assume being at home is an advantage. We still have to go play and make sure we have our energy.”
Sixteen road games, multiple tournaments and competition against teams across the country have given the Gauchos the experience and preparation they need to have a successful home showing.
“We’re really fired up because we’ve been traveling every weekend since August,” senior libero Chelsey Lowe said. “We’re gonna come out with excitement and play hard for our home crowd.”
Last weekend, Lowe reached the 1,000 dig mark, and is second in the Big West with 5.02 digs per set.
Against Pacific (10-5, 1-1), Santa Barbara hopes to make the necessary adjustments after opening conference play last week by splitting a pair of games on the road. UCSB defeated Long Beach State 3-2 but then lost to Cal State Fullerton 3-2.
“Fullerton and Long Beach showed a few of our weaknesses,” Gregory said. “We need better offensive production, as proved by Fullerton.”
The team is also going up against a former Gaucho when it faces the Tigers.
“Pacific’s coach [Greg Gibbons] is our old assistant coach, so it would be nice to beat him,” Lowe said. “We just have to be consistent and not give up runs.”
Preventing long runs is one way the Gauchos are hoping to slow down Pacific’s potent offense.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Lowe said. “They’re a really good offensive team but hopefully we get them frustrated … it’ll be a battle but I know we can win.”
UC Davis (16-1, 2-0) presents another challenge, as they have won 11 straight matches heading into this weekend.
“Davis is for real,” Gregory said. “They’re the number one offensive team in the league. They have the best setter in the league, [Jenny Woolway]. She’s just a sophomore but she’s the most athletic. They also don’t have a freshman starter so they’re the most experienced [in the Big West].”
The Gauchos know that improving to 3-1 in conference play is necessary to move to the top of the standings. A solid record and experience on the road are a prime combination toward the ultimate goal of a playoff berth.
“We have really high expectations,” Lowe said. “We have to win both of these matches to have chance of being first in league. We just have to focus on our side of the net … I know if we play our game we can definitely beat them.”
UCSB will look to get offensive production from several players to counter Davis’ high-powered attack.
“We will have to show we can spread the offense,” senior right side Stacey Schmidt said. “Against Long Beach, we had five players in double digit kills and that is a big part of why we won that match. We will also have to play consistent throughout the entire match and keep their point runs to a minimum. Davis is a great team but I think our tough preseason prepared us for these conference match ups.”
Match time is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday against Pacific and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday against UC Davis in the Thunderdome.