Opening conference play with two consecutive losses, the No. 15 UCSB men’s volleyball team will try to win their first MPSF game when they travel to face UCLA today.
After losses to Pacific and Stanford last weekend, the Gauchos have had a week off to prepare for one of the most talented teams in the nation, the No. 3 Bruins.
“It’s going to be huge to not make mistakes against the Bruins,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “They’re a very experienced team, probably the best team they’ve had in quite some time. We have to limit our errors for sure, or else that makes it real easy for an experienced team.”
After last week’s defeats, the Gauchos, 2-4 (0-2 MPSF), will try to improve upon their previous performances. Against Stanford, UCSB competed in every set, nearly upending the Cardinal before allowing the first and second sets to slip away.
“That’s definitely something we’re still trying to work on, is keeping that level of energy throughout however many games is needed to finish it,” junior middle blocker Dylan Davis said. “I think with Stanford we had a little more consistency with it, but I think there is still more room for us to get better and keep bringing that energy.”
Leading the Gauchos offensively thus far has been junior outside hitter Miles Evans, averaging four kills per set, good for fourth in the conference.
UCLA defeated Northridge 3-0 on Wednesday to improve to 8-1 (3-0 MPSF), and has won six in a row entering Friday’s match against the Gauchos. The Bruins lead the MPSF in kills per set and senior quick hitters Weston Dunlap and Thomas Amberg are the top two players in the conference when it comes to hitting percentage.
“[UCLA] got Northridge pretty good in three games straight. They beat them pretty soundly, so I don’t think they’ll be tired,” McLaughlin said. “It’s going to take us passing at a real high level and then we can compete with them. We’re going to have to play close to perfect.”
The Bruins bring the number one defensive squad in the league, holding opponents to a conference-low .218 hitting percentage in the season while second in blocks with nearly three per set.
“We’re definitely going to have to come out the same way we did against Stanford and battle point by point,” Evans said. “We need to focus on every detail in the game; we can’t let up at any moment.”
“I don’t think we’re too worried about them stopping us, we have to worry about stopping them a little bit,” Evans said. “We know we can play, we’re not really worried about them taking us out of our game.”
Dating back to last season, the Gauchos have defeated the Bruins in their last three regular season matches, all by 3-1 scores. UCSB can only hope today’s match goes as favorably.
“They’re a really physical team,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to be important for us making sure we’re ready for the next play, never looking behind us or worrying about mistakes that we made. As long as we stay positive I think we should be able to score some points on these guys.”
The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in UCLA’s Wooden Center.