For the last couple of months, the #5 UCSB women’s volleyball team has been on a magical carpet ride.

The Gauchos have already exceeded the expectations those around them set for the 2002 season. All they have to do now is fulfill the expectations they have for themselves.

“People have been talking for the last few weeks as if they are so shocked that we are doing this well,” senior captain Brooke Niles said. “That is great that people are giving us respect for how well we are playing, but we knew that we could be good. We are just taking things one match at a time. We want to make it to the Final Four.”

The elusive Final Four in the Gauchos’ case.

The women’s volleyball team has been on campus for 28 years, and Head Coach Kathy Gregory is the only leader that the program has ever known. Gregory, who has already been inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame, has put together an unbelievable career record of 692-291. Santa Barbara (21-0, 11-0 in the Big West) is also one of only four teams in the country who can boast that it has been to every single NCAA Tournament since the tourney began in 1981.

However, despite all of the success that has so readily surrounded the past women’s teams, the Gauchos have never been to the Final Four.

UCSB has been close, however. The Gauchos were one match away from the Final Four in 2000 and in 1997. Despite making it so deep into the tournament, Santa Barbara has never made it over that final hump.

“Of course we think about that,” senior outside hitter Courtney Guerra said. “But we have to worry about the next game and the next match. If we don’t, we won’t even get a chance to try and make it to the Final Four.”

In tonight’s match, the Gauchos will square off against Idaho before travelling to face Utah State on Saturday. Santa Barbara will be on the road this weekend for the second to last time this year. Although these matches may look easy on paper, this is a trip that Gregory has been apprehensive about for a while.

“These matches aren’t as easy as everyone may think they are,” Gregory said. “Utah State is a very tough team, especially at their place, and I think that Idaho is better than everyone is giving them credit for as well.”

Santa Barbara is also hoping to remain one of only three unbeaten teams remaining this season. Victories tonight and Saturday will go a long way towards taking the team closer to its goal of a magic carpet ride all the way to the Final Four.