In response to the recent onslaught of rain to hit Santa Barbara, the UCSB men’s volleyball team looks to wash away the memories of its tournament losses and seek redemption tonight at 7 against visiting Long Beach State.

Santa Barbara, which has been in practice refining its blocking and defensive skills since Sunday, wants to show Long Beach just how sweet it is to win like a Gaucho.

“It’s too early to push the panic button, but we need to play better and block more consistently,” Head Coach Ken Preston said.

It will be a tough matchup for Santa Barbara however, as Long Beach swept the Gauchos last weekend during the Elephant Bar Invitational on its way to placing third in the tournament. With 49er Head Coach Alan Knipe, who was named last year’s Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, and All-American setter Tyler Hildebrand, Long Beach should be a formidable foe.

“[Long Beach] has the best setter in the country,” Preston said. “I have tremendous respect for their coaching staff and what they have done there.”

Santa Barbara’s goals for this evening will be to serve tough and to get Long Beach’s setter out of system and away from the net, Preston said.

UCSB won’t give up easily. With the MPSF conference season starting tonight, the Gauchos have put the past behind them and the hopes of a winning season are dangling in front of them.

“The next match is huge as a bounce-back,” senior outside hitter Nate Wack said. “The tournament was not a good indicator of how we play. All the little things needed improvement and it’s going to be a good match to see how we’ve improved.”

Blocking is on the collective Gaucho mind and after a couple seconds at practice, it is apparent that Santa Barbara will not stand to suffer the same fate again.

“We have reestablished a different blocking philosophy,” Preston said. “We’re trying to use less hand movement and we’ll see how it works [tonight].”

Since their regularly scheduled game Wednesday night against San Diego was rescheduled to next Monday due to the closure of Highway 101, the Gauchos have had some extra time to prepare and look to capitalize on it – not only for tonight’s game but for next Friday’s game against Brigham Young as well.

“The reschedule works well for us,” Preston said. “I’d much rather have a game to prepare for BYU instead of just a practice. This way may work even better.”