Six days after snapping their 23-game winning streak against Big West competition, the UCSB women’s volleyball team returns home this weekend looking to extend their winning streak at home to three matches.

The Gauchos host Utah State (9-6 overall, 2-3 in the Big West) tonight at 7 at the Thunderdome. The Aggies return five players from last year’s roster, including a first team all-Big West selection in senior outside hitter Erin Cartwright-Davis, as well as the co-Big West Freshman of the year, right side hitter Zuzana Cernianska. Also, on Saturday at 7 p.m. the Idaho Vandals (7-6, 1-4) visit the Thunderdome to try their luck against the Gauchos.

“We are really excited to be back home,” UCSB Associate Head Coach Liz Towne-Gilbert said.

Last years’ league performance (18-0) may have given the Gauchos an illusion of invincibility; however Gilbert admits they can’t take any game for granted in the Big West.

“After last week we now know that we can’t take any opponent for granted,” Gilbert said. “The Big West is changing. The talent gaps between the top teams and bottom teams are becoming very minimal.”

With a 39-1 all-time record against this weekends’ opponents, the Gauchos have reason to be confident. But in light of last weeks’ upset loss to Northridge, the squad needs to remain focused.

An early and unexpected loss in a league schedule does have a way of putting things into perspective for a team.

“We can’t think about streaks, records or anything that has already happened. That’s all in the past. All we need to do now is focus on the next game and keep improving in practice,” senior right side hitter Francina Edmonds said.

“I’m really confident in this group. Sometimes things just aren’t going to go our way. I don’t like it when that happens, but that’s volleyball,” senior outside hitter Erica Menzel said.

Luckily for the Gauchos, no teams in the Big West have been able to remain flawless so far in the young season. Currently the No. 19 Gauchos stand in second place just a half game behind Irvine and Long Beach. However, all three teams have only one loss and the leaders have played one more match than UCSB.

Last weekend, Idaho took out previously undefeated Irvine. As a perennial power, it seems the changing landscape of the Big West would not favor UCSB. However, UCSB and the Big West have never received much respect nationally when it comes to seeding in the NCAA tournament. With a stronger league schedule, the Gauchos of 2003 will be better prepared for a National championship run deep into December.