On a two game winning streak, the #10 UCSB men’s volleyball team looks to seek vengeance tonight as it heads down south to face #7 UCLA.
Last month, the Bruins (6-5 overall, 1-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation [MPSF]) swept the Gauchos at home and now Santa Barbara (6-6 overall, 4-4 MPSF) will try to return the favor. They’ll have to do it without junior opposite hitter Evan Patak for the fourth match in a row.
“I think our team’s doing all right and not having Evan’s kinda hard,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “But they feel pretty good about themselves after last weekend. Even though the Bruins are loaded with talent, they’ve been having some struggles as of late.”
Contrary to last week’s predictions, Patak, UCSB’s top scorer, will remain sidelined during the UCLA match to rest an injured shoulder.
Junior opposite hitter Aaron Richman has proven that he will be more than capable to fill in during Patak’s absence. During the last match, Richman and sophomore middle blocker Theo Brunner co-led the Gauchos with 12 kills each on the night. Richman is also averaging three kills per match, which lands him right behind Patak’s 5.68 on the Gaucho roster.
“I think we’re really starting to gel and real good sense for the team,” sophomore outside hitter Michael Fisher said. “Our relationships on the court are getting more fluid and solid. And Aaron’s been playing pretty well for us without Evan.”
Like Santa Barbara, UCLA is also coming off its own sweep of Santa Cruz, but is only riding a one game streak thanks to an upset dealt by USC prior to the Bruin-Slug matchup.
Both teams have dropped in the rankings after the past week and look to change that tonight, in addition to climbing up the MPSF ranking.
“These are two very important matches for us,” UCLA Head Coach Al Scates said on the Bruins Athletics website. “If we’re going to contend in the league [race] we need to win both of these matches.”
Fisher attributes a rivalry between the two teams due to the past few matchups. In the past two years, Santa Barbara has gone 0-3 against UCLA.
“[We] had a mock UCLA team in practice and we really scouted them pretty well,” Fisher said. “We went over each rotation and so far that we’re pretty confident that we’ve made some good adjustments, we just need to serve well against this team.”
The first serve tonight is slated for 7 p.m. in Los Angeles, Calif.