As soon as a dependable starting lineup had been established, an unforced change threw the UCSB men’s volleyball team for a loop.

Sophomore opposite Evan Patak has been sidelined with an injured right knee. Due to the recent implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act into the NCAA, the specifics of Patak’s injury cannot be revealed to the public.

“It is an injury that will keep him out of the lineup for several weeks,” Head Coach Ken Preston said.

With Patak’s absence, junior opposite Mike Nelson will step into the starting role and junior Adam Ulfers will move from the outside hitter position to backup opposite.

“We are without Evan for a while so the chemistry changes a bit,” Preston said. “I think the guys are comfortable now after practicing a week without Evan.”

Nelson finished the Irvine match with seven kills to hit .385 in two games.

The Gauchos will test their chemistry this Friday when they host USC (3-10, 2-5 in MPSF) in Rob Gym at 7:05 p.m.

Unranked, the Trojans upset #6 Northridge in a three-game sweep Wednesday night. USC relied on junior outside hitters Blake Tippett and Pedro Leal, who each notched 17 kills for the Trojans. Prior to traveling to the Matadome, the Trojans had not won a conference match until they defeated Stanford 3-1 on Feb. 5.

A relatively short team, the Trojans make up for their lack of height with hitters who boast high vertical jumps.

“They’re smaller, good jumpers and good hitters,” Preston said. “They have a quick hit, so our block needs to be disciplined and be real aggressive.”

Santa Barbara should not have a problem defensively at the net. Middle blockers senior Justin Adams and junior Michael Kennedy continuously put up a solid front to lead UCSB in blocks. Sophomore setter Dane Jensen and junior outside hitter Nate Wack pose a threat to opponents in both digs and blocks.

“Our block has got to be solid,” Preston said. “They pass the ball real well. If we don’t side out we’ll be in trouble.”

Trojan sophomore libero Joao Grangeiro also serves as an outside hitter for USC, hitting .444 against Northridge by adding 10 kills.

Freshman Jake Wiens is coming off a career-high 25-kill match against Irvine and is improving his skills around the court with every match. Wiens is hitting an average of .409 to lead current starters.