The UCSB women’s volleyball team welcomes Pepperdine to the Thunderdome for a nonconference matchup tonight. This will be the first home game for the Gauchos in over a month.
The Gauchos are currently 8-9 overall and 1-2 in the Big West, while the Waves currently sit at 10-6 overall and 1-3 in the West Coast Conference.
“I know it’s been a month [since we’ve played at home], but we feel comfortable there. We have been practicing there and we look forward to the opportunity to play on our home court,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “The Thunderdome is a great facility, so we’re hoping with the home-court advantage we’ll play more relaxed.”
The Waves will play their third consecutive game on the road and come to Santa Barbara on a two-game losing streak. Pepperdine dropped both matches last weekend against Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara in close games.
“We just know that they’re coming off quite a few losses and that they’re just going to want to beat us even more,” junior opposite Katey Thompson said. “They will come in wanting it more than a normal Pepperdine team would.”
The Gauchos head into the game coming off a decisive three set victory over conference rival Cal Poly. The win Saturday night snapped Santa Barbara’s four-game losing streak.
“[We’re working] mostly on defense and blocking,” Thompson said. “That’s the usual Santa Barbara way and so we focus on those and hopefully we can take their offense out of it.”
Pepperdine will be facing a young but very talented Santa Barbara team. Junior middle blocker Jenna Wilson and Thompson rank No. 5 and No. 6 in blocks in the Big West this season. In addition, UCSB is second in team digs this season. Freshman libero Taylor Formico leads the Gauchos and the Big West with 372 digs this season alongside junior outside hitter Leah Sully, who is No. 10 in conference with 244.
Junior outside hitter Jazmine Orozco, who leads the Waves in kills with 198, will need support from junior setter Kellie Woolever to overcome the Gauchos’ defense. Woolever leads Pepperdine with 611 assists and averages 10.91 assists per set, No. 3 in the WCC.
“Pepperdine is a very physical team, and we’ve been working on the fact that we can spread the court a little bit offensively and that we know how to defend some of their big hitters,” Gregory said. “But we’re really going to try to play our game, limit our errors and try to serve aggressively.”
Tonight’s matchup is set for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.