Tonight is the first of two immensely important games that the UCSB women’s volleyball team will host this weekend. Tonight, the Gauchos, 8-10 overall and 1-2 Big West, will welcome Cal State Northridge, which holds a record of 12-5 overall and 3-2 in the Big West.
The Matadors come to Santa Barbara after losing to UC Irvine last Saturday at home 3-1. They have not had a game yet this week, which means they have had a lot of rest and practice heading into a three-game road trip which will culminate with a trip to Hawaii Oct. 12.
The Gauchos come into this game having dropped five of their last six, the most recent a tough loss to No. 23 Pepperdine on Wednesday night.
“Those games are huge for us and I think we can compete with those teams, so we really need to work hard to get wins this weekend,” junior outside hitter Leah Sully said.
Santa Barbara struggled against Pepperdine’s blocking and might see a small lineup switch tonight to try and find a way to score over the blocking of Northridge. The Matadors rank fifth in the Big West in blocking and tout two players, sophomore middle blocker Casey Hinger and junior setter Sydney Gedryn as the No. 2 and No. 6 blockers in the league, respectively.
“We’ve not been getting production out of the other outside hitting position,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “ So I’m going to have to look at trying to get a little bit more hitting in that row that [our setter] is playing, and maybe take a couple of risks.”
Following Friday night’s game, the Gauchos will welcome the No. 1 Big West team Hawaii on Saturday night. The Rainbow Wahine, at 12-2 overall and 5-0 in the Big West, will travel to Cal Poly Friday before coming to Santa Barbara. No. 8 Hawaii is new to the conference this year, but has taken no time establishing dominance as it rides a five-game winning streak into San Luis Obispo. UCSB will have its hands full again as Hawaii ranks first in conference in hitting percentage and kills, and is second in blocks behind only Northridge.
However either of the two games goes, it seems inevitable that freshman standout Taylor Formico will set the UCSB record for most digs in a season by a freshman. She needs just 13 to tie and 14 to take sole possession atop the leader board and pass Kelly Heenan, who set the record in 2010.
Both matches this weekend will be held in the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.