It will be a clash between middle-of-the-pack conference foes tonight, with #4 UCSB hosting #3 BYU in a two-match Mountain Pacific Sports Federation battle.
BYU (13-4 overall, 9-3 in the MPSF) has won its last four matches, breaking a four-match losing streak, including a two-match sweep by #1 Pepperdine. Sophomore opposite Yosleyder Cala was recently named the American Volleyball Collegiate Association National Player of the Week, and freshman opposite Robby Stowell was named MPSF Player of the Week. Freshman setter Yamil Perez leads the conference with 13.6 assists per game, good for third in the nation.
The Gauchos (14-6, 10-5 in the MPSF) recently broke a three-match losing streak with two consecutive sweeps of Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne this past weekend.
Senior opposite Evan Patak is not only the mental leader of UCSB, but also the leader in kills – 5.8 per game – and aces at 1.2 per game.
UCSB’s setters have recently begun a trend of spreading the points around to players other than Patak. Patak had an off night against UCLA, only scoring 13 points. However, junior middle blocker Theo Brunner stepped up and led the team with 14. Brunner is second on the team with an average of 3 kills per game, and first in hitting percentage with a .507 clip.
“We realize that Evan is a great player, but we also realize that our attack has to be balanced and unpredictable in order to beat the best teams.” junior outside hitter Michael Fisher said. “Usually if Evan gets in trouble it is an expression of poor passing.”
Even though the Gauchos have out-blocked the majority of their opponents this season, UCSB has recently lagged at the net. During the Gauchos losing streak, UCSB averaged 6 blocks to their opponents 10. The only time the Gauchos out-blocked their opponent during that time was in the 3-1 loss to Cal State Northridge.
“We are listening to each other better as well and, subsequently, blocking is improving.” Fisher said. “We have practiced hard enough so that we don’t have to pull out any magic tricks. We will be automatic killing machines like Patrick Swayze.”