The UCSB women’s volleyball team will travel to Pepperdine tonight to take on the Waves in a nonconference match: the first of four straight games on the road.

[media-credit name=”Daniel Wade” align=”alignleft” width=”119″][/media-credit]“Pepperdine is a great nonconference opponent,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “Every time we meet it’s a good match and we have a nice little beach school rivalry going on.”

Santa Barbara (9-7 overall, 3-1 Big West) is coming off a weekend in which it beat #21 Long Beach in five sets before losing to Cal State Fullerton 0-3. The Gauchos are 2-6 when playing in three-game matches, and 4-0 when the match is decided in a final fifth frame.

Pepperdine (10-5 overall), coming in as the #58 ranked team in the nation, is riding a three-game winning streak, recently beating Santa Clara 3-1 on the road. Last year, the Gauchos bested the Waves 3-1 at home.

“They have a very good, physical team,” Coach Gregory said. “We have to be more consistent defensively and spread the court offensively to get this win.”

The Gauchos are currently ailing a bit, with injuries and illnesses to a few players. Freshman opposite Katey Thompson hurt her knee against Fullerton and is out for at least a week.

“We have a few injuries and some guys sick, but you have to continue on and grind it out in times like this,” Coach Gregory said.

It has been a complete team effort so far in Santa Barbara’s successful start to the season. Junior middle blocker Stacey Schmidt is sixth in the conference with a .338 hitting percentage and is second on the team with more than three kills per set. Senior setter Dana Vargas ranks fourth in the Big West with her 10.40 assists per set. An All-American a year ago, Vargas is third all-time in UCSB history with 4,148 assists and has posted seven double-doubles this season.

Senior outside hitter Charlene DeHoog leads the team with her 3.12 kills per set and is second on the squad with 2.78 digs per set. Redshirt freshman Kara Sherrard has been a double-double machine, recording her fourth of the season with 15 kills and 10 digs in Friday night’s win over Long Beach.

“I have been happy with our play so far and lots of the girls have stepped up, but there is always room for improvement and I expect us to get even better,” Coach Gregory said.

The Gauchos begin this four-game road trip at Pepperdine at 7 p.m. before traveling to Cal Poly on Saturday.