After winning the first two games of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, it seems that nothing can scare Gaucho men’s volleyball — not even defending champions BYU.
Traveling all the way from their salty lake to visit the edge of the Pacific, the Cougars will undoubtedly feel out of place, as Santa Barbara looks for a sweep in this weekend’s home match-ups to be played at 7:05 p.m. Friday and 5:05 Saturday.
“I want as many faces in the stands as possible this weekend,” senior middle blocker Michael Kennedy said. “If [BYU] can’t handle the heat, then they need to get out of the kitchen.”
This “kitchen,” also known as the infamous Rob Gym, is giving visiting BYU a reason to worry about leaving its good ol’ town of Provo for the more acquired taste of Goleta.
“They get pretty rowdy at Santa Barbara,” BYU Head Coach Tom Peterson told BYU Athletic Media Relations. “We can’t get caught up in going to Santa Barbara, where it is a little bit different atmosphere.”
BYU swept the Gauchos in both matches played in Cougar country last season, yet only two starters remain on its team from a year ago. The rest are five new starters who will likely have a heavy burden to carry while defending its school’s 2004 NCAA Championship title.
“[BYU] is not the same team that went to the National Championships last year, but they are an excellent team and are well disciplined, so we’ll have to make good choices,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said.
The Gauchos have managed to come from behind in their last two conference contests, but this weekend Santa Barbara looks to start strong and be on top from the start.
“This match will have a lot to do with confidence,” Preston said. “[BYU] wears their emotions on their sleeves and they’ll be ready. In the past our team has been like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so the match will all depend on how our team comes out.”
Despite being swept by the Cougars last season, the Gauchos aren’t worrying about showing BYU who’s better at the net.
“We aren’t worried about BYU and there is no doubt that we can beat them,” Kennedy said. “We’re trying to start out with intensity and dominate from the get-go.”