With the Big West Conference season a week behind it, the UCSB women’s volleyball team still has a lot of ground left to cover in order to make a late-season push to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament next month. Tonight, the road to the NCAAs takes UCSB through Davis, Calif.

The Gauchos’ (16-11 overall, 8-6 in the Big West) dominance in the Big West came to a halt this season when they failed to win their fifth-straight conference title. That honor was bestowed upon #16 Cal Poly, earning it an automatic spot in the playoffs. The best UCSB can hope for is third place, a ranking it will have to share should Northridge (15-10 overall, 6-6 Big West) or Irvine (11-15 overall, 6-6 Big West) win this weekend.

“I think right now we’re all taking one game a time, and we have to win next few games in order to have a chance [at going to the NCAAs],” senior middle blocker Olivia Waldowski said. “We see the home stretch, and we are focusing on what we have to do; then hopefully we’re getting towards that ultimate goal – the NCAA playoffs.”

This is Santa Barbara’s second matchup against Davis, the Big West’s newest member beginning next season. It hosted the Aggies in their home opener back on Sept. 20. At that point, the Gauchos were still trying to find their groove, but were able to manage an effective sweep of the visiting Aggies, 30-24, 30-17 and 30-20.

The last time the Aggies saw action was Nov. 7, when they hosted #22 Santa Clara. Again, Davis was swept 30-24, 30-22 and 30-15.

“[Davis] is kind of a scary team, because you don’t think they’re going to be that good, but they can come and bite you from behind,” Waldowski said. “It happens with everything … soccer lost to Davis this year. They come from a [Division II] background and they’re a really great team. They have absolutely nothing to lose and we have to show up 100 percent. We’re confident with what we have to do and we just have to go out there and get it done.”

The Aggies are led offensively by sophomore outside hitter Chantal Paschetta, who has amassed 287 kills this season and is averaging 3.3 kills per game. Junior setter Katelyn Astruc joins Paschetta to lead the offense, with 10.14 assists per game and a team-high 22 service aces.

Tonight’s first serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Davis, and the Gauchos will finish out the regular 2006 season at Long Beach’s annual Thanksgiving Tournament next Friday.