The UCSB women’s volleyball team will look to capture its fourth straight win Friday, when it takes on #21 Long Beach State in its Big West home opener, followed by a home match against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

[media-credit id=20120 align=”alignleft” width=”127″][/media-credit]“This weekend will be a big test for us,” senior setter Dana Vargas said. “We had a great weekend last weekend to start off league and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to come away after this weekend 4-0.”

Santa Barbara (8-6 overall, 2-0 Big West) is coming off two road wins over Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine to open up league play.

“The challenge is more difficult for us heading into these two games this weekend,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory acknowledged.

Long Beach (11-3 overall, 1-0 Big West) is the favorite to repeat as Big West champions, doing so last year with a 12-4 league record. They finished one game ahead of the 11-5 Gauchos, despite UCSB shutting out the 49ers in the teams’ only match of the year.

“To beat Long Beach, we are going to have to play tough and play steady throughout,” Vargas said. “We can’t give a big, physical team like them extra opportunities to make plays.”

Fullerton (11-4 overall, 0-1 Big West) is another team that has given the Gauchos fits in the past. Last year, the teams split the season series, 1-1. The Titans were shut out by Long Beach last week, 0-3.

UCSB will look to a number of key players this weekend, including junior middle blocker Stacey Schmidt, who led the Gauchos in a narrow victory over Northridge, posting a career high with 23 kills. Senior outside hitter Charlene DeHoog added 12 kills and freshman outside hitter Kara Sherrard added 11 more.

The next day, UCSB made quick work of Irvine, shutting out the Anteaters 3-0. Schmidt led the squad once again with 12 kills. For her efforts in the two games, Schmidt was named Big West Player of the Week.

“Stacey is a huge part of our team’s success,” freshman libero Kelly Heenan said. “She is our go-to hitter and she is a consistent, great player to rely on.”

Sherrard registered a double-double with 11 kills and 13 digs. Freshman libero Kelly Heenan had 16 digs, and Vargas added 36 assists and eight digs in the match.

“We are working hard to make our game more consistent,” Gregory said. “We are confident heading into this weekend, but the true test of our confidence will come when our backs are pushed up against a wall.”

First serve is set for 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday in Robertson Gymnasium.