A powerful set of waves will crash at Rob Gym tonight when the #11 UCSB men’s volleyball team hosts #2 Pepperdine at 7.

After three straight conference losses to UCLA, UC Irvine and Hawaii, the Gauchos (6-8 overall, 4-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) have dropped down one place in the national overall rankings. After a short stint at the top to the rankings, the Waves (7-2, 7-2 MPSF) have also fallen in the rankings.

“We’d like to be higher in the rankings, but we’re where we deserve to be,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “We need to pull off a significant win and Pepperdine’s a good team. It’s going to be a good match and that would be a significant win.”

After a brief appearance last weekend against Irvine, junior opposite Evan Patak looks to reclaim his spot as the Gauchos’ main attacker after being sidelined for a few weeks due to a shoulder injury. Patak recorded just four kills in 13 attempts against the Anteaters.

In his absence, both junior outside hitters Derek Otte and Aaron Richman stepped up at opposite to try and carry the team. Against Irvine, Otte pounded 18 kills, the second most on the team behind junior outside hitter Bryan Berman’s 21. The trio of hitters led the team in hitting with Richman leading the way, slamming home half of his attempts with his .500 clip.

“I don’t think [not having Patak] has changed how we play,” sophomore middle blocker Theo Brunner said. “We did better against Irvine than we did in the past and there’s more unity on the court. Don’t get me wrong, having Evan back will help how we play, but I think we’ve been a steady progression.”

Pepperdine is coming off of a home split with Hawaii last week. Middle blockers senior Andy Hein and junior Tom Hulse lead the Waves, helping them to average 3.61 blocks per game. Junior outside hitter John Parfitt has been Pepperdine’s best hitter, averaging 3.76 kills per game.

“We have to side out against Pepperdine,” Preston said. “They are one of the biggest teams in the country and if we don’t pass well, we’ll be in trouble. Hopefully with that also comes sideouts.”