Following two consecutive loses, the UCSB men’s volleyball team will host #1 Long Beach State and #13 UC San Diego tonight and tomorrow night at 7 in Rob Gym.

As one of the premier volleyball schools in the nation, Long Beach State (13-3 overall, 8-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) entered the 2004 season as the #1 seed in the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational and has not dropped to below the sixth spot in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The 49ers have won their last six matches, five by 3-0 sweeps. In addition, Long Beach is riding an 18-game winning streak.

“I think Long Beach is the best team in the country,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “I expect them to be #1.”

Long Beach State senior outside hitter Scott Touzinsky leads the MPSF in digs, kills and points scored in a single match, while sophomore setter Tyler Hildebrand leads in assists. As a team, the 49ers also lead the conference in the same categories.

“Long Beach has lost two deuce games to BYU, but they’re very quick,” Preston said. “They’re good jumpers and good hitters.”

The 49ers are equipped with solid players at all positions, continuously producing match-high performances. Long Beach State is hitting .358 while holding opponents to .245. Defensively, junior libero Paul Munoz is averaging 2.3 digs per game.

“Thursday is a critical game for us,” Preston said. “It’s not going to keep us out of the playoffs if we lose, but it’s a must-win in my opinion.”

Santa Barbara will meet UCSD on Thursday night. Traditionally a less threatening volleyball program, UCSD (6-9, 2-7) has climbed the charts, starting unranked and coming into Thursday’s match #13 nationally.

“UCSD is a very good team who has not been as good as other groups but is talented,” Preston said. “They’ve all grown up playing volleyball, have good players and are a good team.”

Offensively, the Tritons are hitting .280 to their opponents’ .307. Senior middle blocker Kevin Keyser leads the Tritons with a .379 hitting percentage for 138 kills. Junior outside hitter Adam Toren and opposites senior Jim Waller and sophomore Jeff Urton are all hitting in three-digits.

Coming off consecutive losses to Pepperdine and UCLA, the Gauchos need to pass the ball well to run an effective offense.

“We have to play one of our best matches of the year on both nights,” Preston said.