If one weekend could cost the #19 UCSB women’s volleyball team its third consecutive Big West Championship, this is it.
Big West powerhouses Irvine and Long Beach State will raid the Thunderdome on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at 7 p.m. both nights.
“I don’t think about the title,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “I think about just winning each game. On my mind is to win every possible game and to be in a position to win.”
Not only does this weekend’s homestand have the potential to disrupt Santa Barbara’s Big West title hopes, but Saturday’s Long Beach State match will be the Gauchos’ first-ever women’s volleyball match televised during the regular season. The match will be broadcast on College Sports Television on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Despite dropping three of its past five matches, UCSB is still in a position to win one or both of this weekend’s contests. Gregory has spent the past week trying to improve the Gauchos’ weaknesses; namely, defense and setting.
“On my mind is to win every possible game and be in a position to win. I think we’re in a position to win every game,” Gregory said. “We’re improving as a team and getting better.”
Gregory is planning to use a 6-2 offense with setters senior Mari Bell and freshman Ashley Dutro. Additionally, the Gauchos have been focusing on improving their passing outside of the libero position, which should improve offense.
Although Irvine is currently riding a five-match win streak, all of the wins have occurred in Irvine. The Anteaters (12-4 overall, 5-2 in the Big West) will look to senior outside hitter Kelly Wing, who currently leads the Big West with an average of six kills per game. Senior middle blocker Sami Cash leads the NCAA with a .507 hitting percentage. Although Santa Barbara leads the all-time series against Irvine, the teams split their seasons last year, with each team recording a win at home.
The 49ers are led by 6’3″ freshman middle blocker Alexis Crimes, who has recorded 3.75 kills per game this season. Currently, Long Beach State (13-2, 5-2 in the Big West) is tied with UCSB for third in the Big West but has lost the last four matches played against the Gauchos.