Tonight the #9 UCSB men’s volleyball team will face #7 seed UCLA in the preliminary “play-in” round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament in Los Angeles.
Santa Barbara (13-15 overall, 9-13 in the MPSF) is currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, having lost six of its last seven games, while UCLA (20-12 overall, 12-10 MPSF) is riding its own eight-match winning streak.
“We’re definitely capable of an upset,” junior outside hitter Bryan Berman said. “You know we’re a good experienced team, we’re just lacking [junior opposite Evan] Patak. We have some guys that can step up, and I think we’re due for a win against UCLA.”
Even though Santa Barbara was swept by UCLA without Patak the last time the two teams met, the Gauchos took the Bruins to a game three score of 34-32 on April 12. The winner of tonight’s game will face the #2 seed, the Warriors, in the first round in Hawaii.
Last year during the 2005 playoffs in Provo, Utah, the Gauchos entered the first round having lost five of its last seven matches, to face #3 BYU. Santa Barbara easily won the first two sets, and then dropped the second two to the Cougars. In the final match, the Gauchos came back to pull out a decisive 15-13 victory en route to the MPSF semifinal round. Berman, junior libero Drew Wilson, senior outside hitter Jared Godinez and sophomore middle blocker Theo Brunner all saw playing time in the win over the Cougars.
“Obviously we don’t have Evan this year, but we still got some key guys from last year,” Brunner said. “I think we’ll be fine in this match, we just have to play to our athletic ability. … And we’ve got some new guys this year. [Freshman setter] Max [Klineman] is a good smart setter, he doesn’t fold under pressure and [junior middle blocker] Dave [Kennedy’s] been starting to play really well. I don’t think they’re really going to have any rookie moments.”
The last time the two teams met in the postseason was 2002, when UCSB upset the Bruins in Los Angeles in five full sets. Since then, the Gauchos have not defeated UCLA, building a losing streak that spans nine games with three losses coming this season.
“[Playing against our rivals] will be great,” Brunner said. “We wouldn’t rather play anyone else, especially since they’ve beaten us three times this year already. … We’re going to go all out. This game will make or break us, so we’re going to give 110 percent.”
Tonight’s first serve is set for 7 at Pauley Pavilion.