With four of their last five losses coming in the fifth and final set, the #13 Spikers have been through a rollercoaster of emotions both physically and mentally. They have battled back and forth with several of the top teams in the nation, setting up for the upset before upsetting themselves by letting match after match slip through their fingers.

Hopefully, the UCSB men’s volleyball team (4-9 overall, 2-8 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) will be able to take all of its pent-up aggression and turn it into wins this weekend, though the task at hand is easier said than done considering the competition on tap for this weekend.

“Assuming we do get a win, our confidence would go through the roof,” sophomore opposite Cullen Irons said.

Santa Barbara will need plenty of confidence on top of near flawless execution if they wish to take down either #5 USC (10-3, 7-2) tomorrow, or #1 Pepperdine (9-2, 8-2) on Saturday. The Trojans have won five of their last six matches including wins over Stanford and most recently UCLA, due in large part to a vicious serving game that has made its way to the forefront of opponent’s scouting reports.

“USC has a lot of guys that have rockets for arms, which should be a challenge for us considering we haven’t really seen too many top servers,” Irons said.

Though the Trojans will undoubtedly pose a serious challenge to the Spikers, Pepperdine might be an even greater hurdle to clear as the Waves have only lost two times thus far in the regular season, earning them the recent promotion to the title of top volleyball team in the nation. UCSB has been hard at work all week preparing themselves for both opponents.

“With every team there’s a different strategy,” Irons said. “We’ve been working on a lot of defensive schemes that focusing on their [USC and Pepperdine’s] hitting tendencies.”

It will take a masterful game plan to combat what Pepperdine has in store for the Spikers, as they boast the national leaders in assists, blocks, and kills. On the other hand, UCSB comes in with an impressive trio of sophomores who have made a dent in the national rankings, including setter Vince Devany who ranks fifth in assists per game (13.12), middle blocker Scott Slaughter who ranks 14th in blocks per game (1.33) while ranking second in hitting percentage (.487), and outside Jeff Menzel who ranks fifth in kills per game at (5.39).

Individual accolades aside, the entire team needs to play at a high level as a core, particularly in crunch time, if they wish to make a late-season run at postseason play.

“We need to focus on the ultimate goal of getting into playoffs,” Irons said. “It’s time to put the axe on the grinder and really go for it.”