As the UCSB men’s volleyball team prepares to reach the halfway point in its season, the Gauchos return home to host Pepperdine tomorrow night at 7 in Rob Gym in a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation match.
A well-rounded team, Pepperdine (8-3, 4-3 MPSF) averages almost twice the number of blocks per game as its opponents (3.38 to 1.71). Gaucho junior middle blocker Michael Kennedy averages 1.58 blocks per game. With the assistance of senior middle blocker Justin Adams and outside hitters junior Nate Wack and freshman Jake Wiens, UCSB is in a position to match the Waves in blocks.
In the back row, freshman libero James Ka leads Pepperdine with 93 total digs. Opposite Ka, Gaucho junior libero Aaron Mansfield consistently records a team high in digs.
Offensively, senior outside hitter Fred Winters averages 4.89 kills per game, the third-best average in the nation. Winters notched a team-high 21 kills against Northridge. Additionally, junior setter John Mayer owns a third-best 13.68 assists per game. In the MPSF, Winters and junior outside hitter Sean Rooney are third and fourth in kills per game with averages of 4.77 and 4.55, respectively. The Waves possess the third best hitting average in the nation with a collective .365 hitting percentage.
When a shutout is on the line, the Waves shut the door. Pepperdine shone in game three this season by closing matches by an average of four points. Most recently, the Waves outhit Northridge .389 to .088 in a 30-21 game-three win over the Matadors. However, the Waves have been unable to win many fourth games, consistently pushing tight matches to a decisive fifth game.
Pepperdine fell to Northridge in five games Feb. 13 in the Matadome. Santa Barbara split a pair of matches with the Matadors.
Santa Barbara is coming off an error-filled 3-1 loss to UCLA in Westwood on Thursday night. The Gauchos were called on six blocking errors and were aced three times. UCSB committed 16 hitting errors and hit .287. To compete at a more even level with the Waves, UCSB setters will need to run a more effective offense. Specifically, Wiens and Wack need to hit more consistently from the outside.