The UCSB men’s volleyball team will finally get a chance to come home this weekend, hosting Pacific tonight and Stanford on Saturday at Rob Gym.
“It’s kind of weird. We’ve been playing for three weeks but it seems like three months,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said.
The going will not get any easier for the Gauchos despite the friendly surroundings, but Santa Barbara can gain ground with a weekend sweep. UCSB stands a half-game ahead of the Cardinal and a half-game behind UOP in the rugged Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“All of these teams are really very good,” Preston said. “It’s the toughest league in the country, not sports-specific either. I think it’s as tough as the ACC in basketball.”
The Gauchos defeated UOP in the first round of the E-Bar Invite, and the Tigers will be looking for a dose of revenge.
“There’s always a psychological disadvantage and advantage when you beat a team,” Preston said. “You know you can beat them but then you think, ‘what’s going to happen this time.’ But I think being at home for the league home opener will get us a little motivated.”
UOP has won three of its last four matches, including a victory over #5 BYU two weeks ago. The Tigers feature senior Chris Tamas, a setter from Santa Barbara who leads the team with 421 assists and a .409 hitting percentage.
“[UOP has] a possible Olympian in Chris Tamas,” Preston said. “I think UOP can beat anybody in the country on any given night.”
After a setback at Pepperdine earlier in the week, UCSB (3-5, 1-2 in the MPSF) posted its first league win last weekend at USC on Saturday. Senior outside hitter Keith Busam led the team with 11 kills against the Trojans, and will earn another start tonight.
“I started [Busam] and he played very, very well,” Preston said.
The Gauchos could pull closer to .500 with a sweep this weekend.
“Stanford is a top-five team and Curt Toppel is the best player in the nation. UOP has one of the best setters in the MPSF so this will be a good test,” sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield said.
National Player of the Week Curt Toppel and the Cardinal (3-5, 1-3) come to Santa Barbara on Saturday after defeating the defending national champs Hawaii last week in Honolulu. Stanford has dropped four of its last five matches, however.
“Stanford I picked as the possible number one team in the country in the preseason,” Preston said. “Their record doesn’t indicate the quality team that they are.”