With the first round of the MPSF playoffs slated for next Saturday, the No. 5 UCSB men’s volleyball team continues the postseason push this week in hopes of clinching a top four finish in league.
The Gauchos will host Cal Baptist University today and No. 1 BYU Friday in their final week of conference play.
UCSB enters tonight’s matchup against Cal Baptist with an overall record of 15-8 and an MPSF record of 14-8. The Gauchos are currently tied for fourth place in conference alongside UC Irvine.
This week’s matches are especially important because UCSB needs just one win, or a loss from either Hawaii or Long Beach State, to solidify its playoff spot. Although this combination does not guarantee the Gauchos a top-four finish, there is still the possibility of finishing in the top half of the bracket and hosting a first round match.
“We have all been really focused this week and we know what we need to do,” redshirt freshman libero Parker Boehle said. “Overall we have had a really good week in practice.”
The last time UCSB faced Cal Baptist, the team swept the Lancers in a quick three-round match in Riverside. The Lancers enter Gaucho territory with an overall mark of 4-22 and an MPSF record of 2-20.
In order to maintain the upper hand in tonight’s match, Santa Barbara will have to keep pressure on junior outside hitter Johannes Brink. Brink currently leads the Lancers in kills, recording 321 on the season and averaging 3.96 kills per set.
As far as playing the block, UCSB will want to avoid sophomore opposite hitter Amir Lugo-Rodriguez. Lugo-Rodriguez is the Lancer’s defensive backbone, leading the team with 96 total blocks.
After coming off a week of career-high performances against Long Beach State and then falling in an upset to Cal State Northridge, it seems the Gauchos will have the momentum and determination to pull off a key performance in tonight’s match.
Dominating control in the middle, sophomore setter Jonah Seif will enter tonight’s game recently coming off a career-high 61 assist performance against Long Beach State.
Redshirt senior outside hitter Matt Hanley and redshirt junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen will also be a strong offensive force for UCSB. Hanley and Nielsen have led the team in kills for the past four games.
“Our team is trying to focus on competing and really coming together in order to be at our best as a team come playoff time,” redshirt sophomore middle blocker Ryan Hardy said.
Later this week the Gauchos will host a much-anticipated rematch against BYU on senior night. UCSB will honor their four graduating seniors Chad Kingi, Evan Licht, Ryan Thompson and Hanley.
Tonight’s match against Cal Baptist is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start time at Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of April 9th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson of the Daily Nexus.