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Winner of its last two games, the UCSB men’s volleyball team heads into tonight’s match against No. 3 Long Beach State looking to end its seven-game road trip on the right foot before it begins a stretch of five games at home.
Coming off a critical victory against No. 6 UCLA, the Gauchos are just as confident they can deliver the same result against an opposition they have beaten earlier in the season in the Long Beach 49ers.
“We know that this team is one of the top teams in our league, but we beat them in the beginning of the season,” senior outside hitter Miles Evans said. “We’re very confident that we can take it to them at their place and shut them out this year. We’re really excited to go play them.”
What has been a perceived weakness has now become a sudden strength for the Gauchos, who have won their last two games on the road after starting the season 0-7 away from Rob Gym. Currently 7-11 overall and 5-9 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, Santa Barbara is fully aware of the importance of this game as it sits in 10th place in the conference.
Meanwhile, Long Beach enters with a 12-4 record overall and 10-3 in the MPSF.
In its last game against UCLA on Wednesday, UCSB handily took care of business versus the Bruins, winning 3-1. The third time was the charm on this occasion for the Gauchos as it was their first win against UCLA this year, after two previous meetings between the two teams resulted in losses.
“[Beating UCLA] was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Evans said. “It was surreal because we really thought we could take it to them. We had a great feeling before playing this match and we really stuck it on them.”
A major factor to UCSB’s win was its passing game. The team limited its errors and was on point on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, junior libero Chad Kingi delivered key saves throughout the four sets and ended with a team-high 11 digs for the night.
“We were aggressive on the service line and we knew we needed to pass well because [UCLA] has great servers,” Evans said. “We got a couple good digs in the moment and we shut down their good players. We employed our defensive strategies very well and it worked out.”
In their first conference game this year back in early January, the 49ers lost in straight sets to the Gauchos. With each team changing drastically since its first encounter, Santa Barbara understands it will not be able to rely on the same game plan it did earlier in the year.
“Both teams, us and them, have changed a lot since the beginning of the season,” Evans said. “I think we’re going to try a couple of the same things, but we’re also going to employ a new strategy based on what they’ve improved on and who their best players are.”
Tonight’s match against the 49ers is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of March 1st, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.