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The first road trip of the season has come at an inopportune time for the No. 10 UCSB men’s volleyball team as they travel north to face No. 14 Pacific and No. 4 Stanford Friday and Saturday, respectively. After starting the season 3-1, the Gauchos have found themselves losers of two straight games.
Struggling offensively in recent games, the Gauchos will try to establish their passing attack early in the matches to create needed momentum and increase their 3-3 record (1-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation).
“We’ve been working on passing all week, so I think that’s going to be the first thing to get us back on track,” sophomore outside hitter Kevin Donohue said. “The other thing is just playing loose and playing with confidence because confidence goes a long way, and if we can start the game off to a quick start and build on our confidence, I think that can carry over.”
Pacific comes in at 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the MPSF while Stanford is 5-2 overall and 2-2 in conference after Tuesday’s victory over UCLA.
UCSB will need to pay close attention to the Tigers’ blocking as sophomore middle blocker Tommy Carmody leads the MPSF in blocks per set, averaging 1.67 on the season. Senior outside hitter Taylor Hughes will be another target defensively for the Gauchos as he leads the Tigers in kills with 55.
Santa Barbara will need to be equally as alert on Saturday against Stanford, who boasts a powerful offense with junior outside hitter Brian Cook leading the MPSF in kills (4.48 per set).
Despite playing on consecutive nights with travel in between, the Gauchos seem intent on not letting that become a factor.
“I really don’t think traveling will be too much of an issue,” Donohue said. “We’re not going to use traveling as an excuse. I think we’ll be ready to go regardless of how far we have to travel, so I don’t think it’ll be too much of a factor.”
Leading the way for UCSB this season are sophomore opposite Matt Marsh and sophomore outside hitter Austin Kingi. The two have the highest kill totals on the team, combining for 125.
Besides the attacking duo of Marsh and Kingi, senior middle blocker Dylan Davis will be critical for the Gauchos on offense. Leading the team in total blocks (27) and third on the team in kills (38), Davis only had nine attempts in the previous game and will need to be more effective for the Gauchos to stop their two-game skid.
With the MPSF being very even this season, Santa Barbara will need to start making its move now to be competing for a playoff spot down the line.
“Every match is just as important as the last,” Davis said. “It’s really starting to get to crunch time where we need to start making a push for the playoff spots.”
Friday and Saturday night’s games are each scheduled for 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of January 25th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.