The unrelenting schedule continues for the #14 UCSB men’s volleyball team, as the Gauchos (1-3 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) head down to Los Angeles to face #11 USC (1-3, 0-1 MPSF). This marks the fourth time in five matches that the Gauchos have played an opponent ranked in the top-25 in the nation.
Both the Gauchos and Trojans are searching to get their first conference wins of the season and get back to .500 in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation. The Trojans are coming off a four game loss to #8 CSU Northridge (3-1, 1-0 MPSF) while the Gauchos will look to bounce back from a 3-1 loss to #2 Pepperdine (1-0, 1-0 MPSF). The MPSF boasts ten of the top 15 teams in nation, including last year’s National Champions, #7 UC Irvine as well as BYU, the number one team in the country.
“This is an important match,” Head Coach Ken Preston said. “Like us, USC lost the other night, so in terms of the conference schedule this is a big match.”
The Gauchos have struggled offensively in the early stages of the season, hitting over .250 in just one match thus far. In their most recent outing at Pepperdine the team swung at just a .164 clip and recorded only seven blocks, compared to the Waves’ .387 hitting percentage and 16 blocks.
“It comes down to good sets and good swings,” Preston said. “Sometimes you get bad sets and bad swings, which all lead to more errors and hitting the ball into the net. We just have to work on getting the ball in.”
With only three returning seniors this season, the Gauchos will have to rely equally on both youth and experience. Freshman outside hitter Jeff Menzel leads the Gauchos with 5.47 kills per game and senior opposite Theo Brunner ranks second with 2.4 kills a game.
The duo will look to get the Gauchos back in the win column tonight at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.