The #13 UCSB men’s volleyball team will try to end its four-match losing streak when it hosts Division III Santa Cruz tonight at The Rob at 5.
The Gauchos will try to bounce back from a demoralizing three-game sweep to UCLA.
“I thought there were people who played well through parts of the [UCLA match],” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “We’re just not a very consistent group.”
Santa Cruz opened the year 1-4 with losses to Mountain Pacific Sports Federation members UCLA, Stanford and Northridge twice. UCSC did not win a single game in its four MPSF defeats.
“Santa Cruz isn’t as good of a team as us, but with the way we’ve been playing lately who knows what will happen,” sophomore middle blocker Michael Kennedy said.
The Banana Slugs feature freshman setter Matt Reynolds, who opened his career at UCSC with 38 assists against Pacific in his first collegiate match. But with no scholarships and meager Division III talent, it will be hard for the Slugs to counter the Gauchos.
“They don’t have many scholarships so they shouldn’t be as good as us,” Preston said.
A match against a Division III opponent may be just what the struggling Gauchos need to snap their losing streak. UCSB has been competitive in every match this year, yet has struggled at the end of close games.
“We have been running drills in practice where we start at 20 points and the other team has 22, and work from there,” Kennedy said.
The Gauchos (3-9, 1-6 in the MPSF) first need to find some chemistry on the court. Preston has rearranged the lineup numerous times, hoping to find a winning combination. Freshman setter Bart Kowalski and sophomore outside hitter Matt Boelk were inserted into the lineup against UCLA, but the Gauchos still fell in three games.
“I’m not going to try a lot of players against Santa Cruz,” Preston said. “Unfortunately if we were winning and I knew my starting lineup, I’d use everybody and get them a chance to play and try to find a combination. But I’m going to keep changing until we find something that works, we’ll see what happens.”
The Gauchos head into the heart of their schedule following tonight’s match against Santa Cruz. They will play a string of ten conference matches in a row, including two matches at home against 7-1 BYU this weekend.
“The chemistry just needs to be there,” junior middle blocker Justin Adams said, “When the chemistry is on we have the ability to beat some of the best teams; when it is off, we can lose to Division III. But based on the caliber of players alone, I think we are the better team. I’m going to guarantee a win against Santa Cruz.”