After playing four top-10 teams in their last five games, the UCSB men’s volleyball team will take a break from the juggernauts this weekend when USC comes to The Rob tonight at 7.
The Gauchos have dropped five of their last six matches, including a three game sweep at the hands of #1 Pepperdine at home Wednesday night.
“We did play Pepperdine solidly, and I guess we could take something away from that,” UCSB Assistant Coach Todd Rogers said. “We should be able to beat a team like SC who we beat before. They are definitely inferior to Pepperdine, but then again it’s a crap shoot every night, and if you don’t come to play you’re going to lose.”
The Trojans are coming off of two huge upsets, defeating #6 Cal State Northridge on Wednesday and #4 Lewis a week ago. The Trojans were led by senior outside hitter Mark Dusharme, who averaged 21.5 kills in both upsets. At 2-11 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Trojans stand one game behind the Gauchos.
“In the Northridge match, USC hit .188 and CSUN hit .150, so it was basically a who-was-going-to-do-worse kind of game,” Rogers said. “I know they have done some movement of personnel, but quite frankly I’m not impressed with their personnel as it is. I think we have better personnel; I think we should beat them.”
Junior opposite Ian Gallagher leads USC with 196 kills on the year and is followed by Dusharme with 195. Dusharme also leads the Trojans with 26 serving aces on the year.
The Gauchos (6-15, 3-12) swept USC in Los Angeles on Jan. 25 behind 11 kills and 7 digs from senior outside hitter Keith Busam. UCSB outhit the Trojans .327 to .255 for the night and out blocked the men of Troy 10 to 4.5. Gallagher recorded a match-high 13 kills and junior middle blocker Josh Day added 11 on a .917 hitting percentage in the loss.
“We’re confident we can hang with any team; we just need to get the breaks. But SC is a team we can beat,” junior outside hitter Adam Ulfers said. “I hope I can help us and not hurt us. I felt I hurt us last game.”
Outside hitters senior Jan Carlos Zegarra, Ulfers and Busam have come on strong as of late, leading the Gauchos’ offense. Ulfers recorded the MPSF single game high in kills on Feb. 27 against Pacific and has led the team in kills twice in its last five games. Zegarra has been a steady contributor throughout the year, averaging double digits in kills in each match.
“We need to stick within our game plan, which a lot of times we have gone away from, and that has been one of the points of having a freshman setter. There’s a reason why we have that game plan, just stick to it,” Rogers said. “Our guys are fighters, and they are going to come out fighting even though they are down after losing quite a few games. But I’d expect nothing less than a victory, particularly against a team I feel is not as good as us.”