The #4 UCSB men’s volleyball team heads west for some sun, fun and a little volleyball this weekend, facing #9 Hawaii for two matches in Honolulu.
“There is the allure of Hawaii,” senior outside hitter Aaron Richman said. “We just have to make sure our priorities are straight. Rest and eat well, just mentally prepare for the fans and the big gym.”
Hawaii (2-6, 2-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) is coming off a sweep at the hands of UCLA (5-6, 3-5 MPSF) – a loss that extended Hawaii’s three-match losing streak. In that game, the Rainbow Warriors hit .274 compared to UCLA’s .402. Offensively, the Warriors are led by sophomore outside hitter Jim Clar, who is averaging 4.50 kills per game. Senior outside hitter Lauri Hakala is second on the team with an average of 3.57. Defensively, senior middle blocker, Dio Dante leads the Warriors with his 1.24 blocks per game average – good for second in the MPSF behind senior middle blocker Tom Hulse of Pepperdine. Dante also leads the Warriors with a .535 attack percentage – good for fourth in the nation.
“They are smaller than Pepperdine, and we can use that to our advantage,” junior outside hitter Michael Fisher said. “We respect them, but we just need to go out there and take care of our business.”
The Gauchos (8-3 overall, 6-2 in the MPSF) are fresh off an upset sweep from Pepperdine (7-1, 6-1 MPSF), a loss that dropped UCSB one spot in the polls. In that game, the Gauchos were out-blocked 12.5 to 3.0. However, senior opposite Evan Patak led all teams with 24 total kills. Patak also leads the Gauchos, and the nation, with 193 total kills and 32 aces – an average 1.07 per game. Patak leads both the Gauchos and the conference with a 6.43 kills per game average. Defensively, the Gauchos are led by their two middle blockers, junior Theo Brunner and senior David Kennedy. Kennedy leads the Gauchos with 46 total blocks, while Brunner is a close second with 42.
“Hawaii is one of the teams we have to beat,” Richman said. “We want to come out and give this conference a show. We are all on the same page; we all want a national championship. We will train hard, both mentally and physically. … We proved to ourselves that we can compete on the road. … Like Fisher put it so eloquently, ‘it’s war out there.'”
Opening serves for tonight and tomorrow night are set for 7 p.m. in Hawaii.