The UCSB men’s volleyball team is hungry for revenge against Stanford and hopes a little home cookin’ will be the recipe for victory.
A rejuvenated No. 7 Santa Barbara team will face No. 6 Stanford tonight at Robertson Gym at 7 in what will certainly be an epic battle of emotional fury and intense competition. The Gauchos face two challenges tonight. The first task is slaying a monster Stanford team that beat UCSB on its home court back on Jan. 27 and a lineup that possesses the talent to beat any team in the country. The second job for Santa Barbara will be ending its recent slump. The Gauchos are coming off a four-game road trip, losers of three of their last four matches. UCSB faces a big challenge ahead, probably their biggest test of the season, but don’t tell that to the Gauchos. Santa Barbara is pumped and ready for battle.
“[This year’s UCSB team] might be the best team at Santa Barbara ever,” junior outside hitter Keith Busam said. “We’re as good a team, talent-wise, as any team in the country.”
Santa Barbara (6-3, 3-3 MPSF) enters tonight’s contest looking to bounce back from its underachieving ways. The Gauchos, led by senior outside hitter Andy Rivera and senior opposite Ben Koski, will do all they can to rebound from their loss to Stanford. Koski and Rivera are averaging 3.64 and 3.42 kills per game, respectively. At Maples Pavilion, the Gauchos lost a close 3-1 match by a score of 30-26, 34-32, 26-30, 31-29. UCSB dominated play for most of the match, but relaxed enough late in the games to hand a win to the Cardinal. Tonight, Santa Barbara expects a different result.
“We’re going to come out with intensity,” freshman middle blocker Michael Kennedy said. “We’ve been playing really well at practice.”
UCSB will try to hit Stanford while it’s down. The Cardinal come into tonight’s match with four straight losses, desperately seeking stable ground. Last Friday night, the Cardinal (5-5, 5-3 MPSF) lost a tough five-game match to Lewis University at the NCAA Preview Tournament and then suffered a devastating loss to Penn State on Saturday evening.
Santa Barbara will try to contain Curt Toppel, who has had an incredible year for Stanford. Toppel registered 30 kills against Lewis and posted a match-high 22 kills against UCSB in their last meeting. On the year, he has recorded a staggering 211 kills, averaging 5.55 kills per game. UCSB knows that they must slow down Toppel in order to stop Stanford.
“He’s one of the best hitters in the country right now,” junior outside hitter Jan Carlo Zegarra said. “He’s going to get the ball, no matter what we do.”
Tonight’s game at Rob Gym will host ’80s night. Hopefully, UCSB and Stanford will make Michael Jackson proud with a “Thriller” of a game.