The UCSB men’s volleyball team will attempt to exact some revenge and dodge some brooms against #13 Irvine on Thursday, after which they will battle top-ranked UCLA on Saturday in hopes of proving that they are one of the elite programs in the nation.

The #5 Gauchos (14-10 overall, 12-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) have struggled against the Anteaters (7-18, 5-13 MPSF) this season, losing 3-0 in each of the previous two matchups. This has some of the players hoping to settle the score Thursday night in Rob Gym.

“We want some revenge against Irvine,” junior setter Dane Jensen said. “We don’t want to get swept on the season.”

Santa Barbara will likely rely on sophomore opposite Evan Patak to be its stopper. The All-American out of Pleasanton, Calif. averages 5.76 kills per game and notched an impressive 31 against #6 Hawaii (16-7, 12-6 MPSF) en route to a dramatic five-game win April 2. Patak’s 916 career kills place him at eighth for all-time Gaucho players.

“[Patak] is a big part of our offense,” Jensen said. “He’s our go-to guy when we need some crucial points. Everyone feeds off of him.”

Santa Barbara will need to carry that team mentality throughout the weekend when they head to Los Angeles to meet the Bruins (22-3, 15-3 MPSF) on Saturday in the famous Pauley Pavilion.

“We’ll be on the road so that’s tough, especially against a team like UCLA,” Jensen said. “We’ll need to get our other guys involved and keep the other teams honest; make them respect all of our hitters.”

The last time the two teams faced each other, the Bruins outlasted Santa Barbara to pull off a 3-2 victory.

“It was close last time,” Jensen said. “If we play our game the way we want to play it then I’m confident we can win, no matter who we’re playing.”

The Gauchos are tied in third place with Hawaii in the MPSF and have clinched a berth in the MPSF Tournament.