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After putting an end to its six-game losing streak last Friday, the No. 12 UCSB men’s volleyball team looks to keep riding the momentum tonight at Rob Gym against No. 14 Cal Baptist. Playing in the final match of their four-game homestand, a win will be critical for the Gauchos before they leave on a six-game road trip.
“Now we got to get ready for probably the hottest team in the league, Cal Baptist,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “I think they’re one of the two best teams in the league, I would say, so it’s the right time for us to be playing well.”
Santa Barbara enters the match with a record of 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, currently sitting at 12th place in the conference. Cal Baptist comes in at seventh place in the MPSF with a 5-4 record overall and 2-2 in league after defeating Cal State Northridge last Wednesday.
In its biggest win of the season last Friday against UC San Diego in an exhilarating four-set match, UCSB demonstrated signs of growth and experience, earning close set wins that have been a problem for the young team this season.
“That’s kind of a sign that guys are growing and learning, and being in that situation enough, you learn how to get through it and be on the positive end,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve had a lot of experience on the other end, now we’re starting to learn how to get through those and make the most of the opportunity.”
For the Gauchos to keep building on their newfound success, they will have to account for the Lancers’ two big Brazilians patrolling the left side of the court. Opposite hitters in sophomore Guilherme Koepp and senior Levi Cabral are first and second in the MPSF in kills per set with 4.41 and 4.36, respectively.
Together, the two have made the Lancers the second most efficient hitting team in the league, accumulating a hitting clip of .322 as a team, as well as the top mark in conference in kills per set (14.27).
Senior middle blocker Dylan Davis will need to play just as well as he did in his previous game for the Gauchos to earn the split on the homestand. Davis had a team-high 14 kills and led all players with a hitting percentage of .591 in his game against the Tritons.
Along with Davis, sophomore opposite Matt Marsh has been Santa Barbara’s main weapon offensively so far in the season. Marsh leads the team in kills with 129 and has also been a factor on the defensive side; his 58 digs on the year are fourth on the team.
“Matt has been carrying the load for us for a while now and he continues to get better and better, getting all the experience he needs,” McLaughlin said. “He’s going to be a very good player in this league for sure.”
Tonight’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of February 5th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.