The #14 Santa Barbara women’s volleyball team will battle #13 Brigham Young University on Friday night at 7 in what will be the Gauchos’ last home and regular season match of the year.
Although the two teams have not met since the Cougars won in three games on Oct. 23, 1998, no one on either side is having a tough time finding motivation for the game, even though both teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament in December.
“Just because we are already in the tournament doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about where we are seeded in the tournament,” junior All-American setter Brooke Rundle said Tuesday. Rundle has been to “The Big Dance” every year of her career, and she knows a thing or two about the importance of a good seed.
“I have seen teams that were not really that good go deep into the tournament because of where they were seeded,” Rundle said. “For once it would be nice to get a pretty good seed.”
Seeding isn’t the only thing at stake Friday night; pride is also on the line for both clubs. Both squads have a record of 23-6, and one last win for either team could move them ahead in the final poll of the regular season.
The key factor in the matchup will be the fact that both teams are peaking as the season is ending. BYU recently won a tournament at Colorado State by knocking off the hometown favorites in #5 Colorado State, which fields one of the best teams in the country, and also handling a solid Wyoming program.
UCSB has not played a ranked team for quite some time, but it is riding its longest winning streak of the year, having logged eight consecutive victories. Two of those wins came over #19 Utah State and #16 Santa Clara. The Gauchos’ last loss came to then #4 USC back on Oct. 24.
Adding to Santa Barbara’s chances of victory is the return of freshman outside hitter Erica Menzel. Menzel missed four matches earlier this month with a severe ankle sprain, but Head Coach Kathy Gregory has been working her back into the line-up in recent matches hoping to give her confidence while not re-injuring Menzel’s ankle. Although Menzel is just a freshman, she has played a major role on this year’s squad both on offense and defense. Menzel was named Big West Player of the Week on Sept. 25 for her outstanding performances against Long Beach State and Pacific.
“We don’t have anything to be worried about against [BYU],” sophomore outside hitter Brooke Niles said. “We have a great team, and we just need to go out and play our game.”