In their second meeting of the season, Northridge will travel to Santa Barbara tonight to face the UCSB men’s volleyball team for their first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation contest at 7:05 in Rob Gym.
The Gauchos last faced the Matadors in round one of the UCSB/Elephant Bar Collegiate Invitational Jan. 6. Northridge defeated the Gauchos 3-1 and went on to be tournament champion contenders before losing to UCLA in the finals.
Santa Barbara leads the Northridge series 38-21, but the Matadors have won the last four contests.
“We know what they do well,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “They play one-on-one defense a lot. Their middles commit and they’re good at it.”
Because the Northridge defense relies on its middle blocker to commit to the opposing middle, this leaves the opposite and outside hitter hitting against only one blocker, if any, as opposed to two.
“Our hitters have to do a good job,” Preston said.
Northridge senior libero Doug English has recorded 690 career digs, placing him fourth in digs on Northridge’s all-time list.
“They’re good at digging around the block,” Preston said of the Matador defense. “They dig a lot and they’re super scrappy.”
Matador senior setter Ty Tramblie is fourth in the Northridge record books with 3,088 all-time assists.
“Their setter is excellent,” Preston said. “He’s very quick, feisty and a good blocker.”
USA Today/AVCA and Volleyball Magazine polls have ranked Northridge (4-2, 1-1 MSPF) fifth and Santa Barbara (4-2, 1-1 MSPF) seventh in the nation. Of the 12 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation teams, nine of them are ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 10.
“We’re always playing against the best,” Preston said.
Junior outside hitters Jeff Taylor and Nils Nielsen lead the Matador offense with 89 and 74 kills, respectively. Freshman opposite Dan Rhodes is averaging 3.75 kills per game, whereas Taylor and Nielson are averaging 3.30 and 3.08. Sophomore middle blocker Brian Waite is averaging 1.08 blocks per game and at 6’6″ leads the Matador defense at the net.
The Gauchos have not competed since for a week and have used the time to continue working on their shortcomings.
“It’s important that we keep improving,” Preston said. “It’s important that we maintain that and just keep getting better.”