Honolulu, Hawaii – arguably one of the most sought after vacation destinations this spring – will be anything but relaxing this weekend for the #5 UCSB men’s volleyball team, as they take on #6 Hawaii in two late season showdowns.
UCSB (13-9 overall, 11-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) looks to come out strong in its first conference match since an upset loss to Northridge on March 9. With only six matches left in the season, the series is critical to both squads, which are looking to capture postseason playing rights in the MPSF tournament.
Currently tied for third place in the MPSF with the Gauchos, Hawaii (15-6, 11-5 in the MPSF) has gotten more than the best of Santa Barbara in the past with an 11-3 record on its home court since Head Coach Mike Wilton took the reins of the Warriors in 1993.
The Gauchos will have their hands full defending Hawaii senior outside hitter Pedro Azenha, who is currently ranked third in the MPSF in points scored and fourth in kills. Besides Azenha, Santa Barbara will have to find its way around middle blocker Maulia La Barre, who has notched 1.49 blocks per game on the season, standing at number two in the MPSF.
Hawaii will be coming off of its sweep last weekend over unranked UC San Diego where the trio of Azenha and middle blockers Kyle Klinger and Lauri Hakala slammed down a combined 70 kills in the six games played.
Santa Barbara will most likely look to exploit All-American sophomore opposite Evan Patak, who should pull out of a tie with Donny Harris for UCSB’s all-time kills leader and give the Gauchos their typical potent punch. Along with senior middle blocker Michael Kennedy and freshman middle blocker Theo Brunner, junior setter Bart Kowalski will have every passing option available at his disposal to take it to the Warriors on their own island.