The UCSB men’s volleyball team continues its road trip tonight in Stockton to face #8 Pacific at 7. The Gauchos then travel to Palo Alto on Saturday to play #9 Stanford.
“Time is running out,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “We have three wins, and we are going to need six wins with 10 games left, so it’s a big road trip. If we can come back with a sweep I think we’ll be in the hunt.”
Santa Barbara enters tonight’s match losers of three of its last four matches before defeating UC San Diego last Saturday. UCSB ranks 10th among 12 teams in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“We played a good match against UC San Diego, it was one of our better matches,” Preston said. “We were getting better against UCLA and Long Beach State, we’re just giving up too many runs, with poor passes, hits and missed serves. You name it we’ve run it, and we can’t do that and still win matches.”
Pacific defeated Santa Barbara 3-1 at The Rob on Jan. 31. UOP outhit UCSB .416 to .261, with Tiger sophomore opposite Nils Dauburs recording a match-high 32 kills.
Senior outside hitter Martin Berntsen leads the Tigers with 246 kills on the year. Senior setter Chris Tamas, from Laguna Blanca High in Santa Barbara, paces UOP with 846 assists. Pacific has lost three of its last five matches, including a 3-1 setback by #11 UCLA.
“Stanford and UOP are both really good teams,” Preston said. “UOP is big, they don’t have a lot of depth. We pretty much know who is coming after us.”
On Saturday, Santa Barbara will face #9 Stanford, who narrowly escaped UCSB on Feb. 1 in five games at The Rob.
Two senior outside hitters lead the Cardinal. William Strickland paced Stanford with 18 kills and six digs while Curt Toppel added 16 kills in the Feb. 1 victory. Strickland leads Stanford in kills with 194 on the year, but Toppel is close behind with 192 and has played in 22 fewer games than Strickland. The Cardinal had won three of their last four before they were upset by UCLA last Saturday.
“Stanford has a combination of height and quickness,” Preston said.
UCSB has received a steady contribution from senior outside hitters Keith Busam and Jan Carlo Zegarra lately. Busam has averaged 10 kills in the last five matches, while Zegarra has an average of 8.6. Preston has found consistency with freshman setter Bart Kowalski who averaged 36 assists in the last five matches.