The UCSB men’s volleyball looks to start a winning streak this weekend as it hosts #13 Hawaii at Robertson Gym for a two-match series. The Gauchos (2-6 overall, 1-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) swept the Warriors (3-4 overall, 2-2 MPSF) last year at Honolulu, and this is the first meeting of the teams this year.
“Last years sweep of Hawaii has nothing to do with this weekend matches at all,” UCSB head coach Ken Preston said. “[We] are both very different teams, Hawaii has many different starters, we have different starters.”
One of those new starters for the Gauchos is freshman opposite Jeff Menzel. Menzel, a true freshman, has already made an impact on the squad, with a team-leading 5.43 kills per game. Menzel is second in the MPSF in kills and average points.
“Menzel is pretty strong at that position,” Preston said. “The opposite position usually gets a lot of sets, and he’s a pretty physical kid, very physical. He has a great future if he maintains his present improvement; he is getting better and better. He’s a very good athlete who jumps well, and has a good arm”
Another player making an impact for the Gauchos is senior middle blocker Theo Brunner. After starting at the opposite position at the beginning of the season, Brunner was moved back to the middle blocker position, a position in which he won American Volleyball Coaches Association First Team honors last year. Brunner is second on the team with 2.68 kills per game.
“[Theo] Brunner is better in the middle, he gives us a threat there, for sure,” Preston said. “So that helps our middle attack, which will help our outside attack.”
Hawaii, coached by Mike Wilton, holds the all-time advantage over the Gauchos, with a 39-24 record. Since 1993, when Wilton took over the Rainbow program, Hawaii has won 22 of the 31 meetings between the two squads. The Warriors have three players averaging over three kills per game. Junior outside hitter Jim Clar is first with an average of 3.75 kills in 16 games. Freshman outside hitter Josh Walker is second with an average of 3.58 in 12 games and senior outside hitter Jacob Schkud ranks third with 3.11 kills per game.
“Whenever the Gauchos play Hawaii, it’s a big game,” Preston said. “I think all league games are big games because it’s such a tough league. I think it can be a very exciting weekend. We are both searching for our identities and we get them at home, so it could be a very entertaining match.”
Friday’s opening serve will be at 7 p.m., with Saturday night’s game also getting underway at 7 p.m.