Hosting the #8 team in the nation will be no walk in the park for the UCSB men’s volleyball team.
Northridge is as big a threat to the #7 Gauchos as any other team in the competitive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Matadors have won five of their last six meetings with Santa Barbara and are hot off a 3-2 win over #11 Irvine, a team that defeated the Gauchos 3-2.
“We never take Northridge lightly,” senior libero Aaron Mansfield said. “Traditionally they’ve been good the past four to five years so any time we play them, it’s a good match.”
Northridge took both UCLA and Long Beach to a decisive fifth game, losing both matches. UCSB also lost to UCLA in five games, but Santa Barbara defeated the 49ers 3-1 earlier in the season.
While the Gauchos bring a solid attack – led by sophomore opposite Evan Patak and supported by outside hitters sophomore Jake Wiens and senior Nate Wack, and middle blockers senior Michael Kennedy and freshman Theo Brunner, Northridge has its own weapons. Senior outside hitter Nils Nielson is arguably the Matador’s biggest offensive threat. However, Northridge also has the ability to spread the ball around to others, including junior middle blocker Brian Waite, who will put up the toughest block for the Matadors.
“They’ve got an array of hitters but when [Nielson] gets in the front row, we’re just going to have to key in on him and put up a block,” Mansfield said. “They distribute the ball very well so we’ll have to play very neutrally and cover all the bases.”
Defense will be important in stopping Nielson and Waite, but the Gauchos have only out-dug their opponents twice this season.
The key to the match will be hitting. So far this season, the Gauchos have won matches when they out-hit their opponents and lost when other teams out-hit them.