One way or another, a streak will be broken tonight in the Thunderdome, where the women’s volleyball team will either end its current overall six-match winning streak or snap its four-match losing streak to Pepperdine.
#19 Santa Barbara (16-3 overall, 11-2 Big West) has struggled in recent history to defeat Pepperdine, a longtime rival, but is confident of its chances of doing so tonight.
“This is the first time in a while that we have a good chance of winning,” junior middle blocker Megan Blackshire said. “If we play our game the way we know we can, then we will be on top.”
The Gauchos are currently riding a six-match winning streak and lead the Big West by two contests. Lately they have been riding the back of co-Big West Player of the Week outside hitter Janine Sandell. The sophomore leads the Gauchos with a 4.22-kills-per-game average, and the Gauchos are coming off of a 3-1 win against Pacific (12-8, 9-4 Big West) on Saturday night in which Sandell notched 24 kills.
The Waves (7-12, 4-5 West Coast Conference) are riding a wave of their own, a four-match win streak against Santa Barbara. Pepperdine is led by junior outside hitter Katy Daly (4.11 kills per game) and are coming away from a 3-1 victory against the University of San Francisco (9-16, 2-7 West Coast) on Saturday night in which Daly tallied 22 kills.
“Daly has always played well against us,” Sandell said. “We have to shut her down with our blocking if we want to win.”
The last time these two teams faced each other was last season, when the Waves came away with a three-game sweep in Malibu, Calif. The last time that they faced each other at the Thunderdome was in the Sweet 16 round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament, with Pepperdine emerging a 3-1 victor. The win was the second victory that year at the Thunderdome for the Waves.
“I definitely want to win; I want a win for the team,” Sandell said. “I want this for the juniors and seniors who have never beaten Pepperdine.”
The Gauchos will approach the game with their eyes on Daly and the Waves’ outside hitters.
“They have really good outside players,” Blackshire said.
The Gaucho blockers will try to shut down Pepperdine’s outside players in tonight’s final nonconference home game of the season.