The UCSB men’s volleyball team flies to Honolulu this week for a pair of conference matches at #10 Hawaii (2-5 overall, 2-2 MPSF) today with another matchup with the Rainbow Warriors coming the following day. The #6 Gauchos (5-4, 3-3) will have to keep the beach time to a minimum, though, as they look to maintain momentum against a conference rival after a win at home last week.

[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”132″][/media-credit]“Hawaii is a tough place to play. They get big crowds,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “The game is on live television over there. It’s a big event on the island. We’ll see if this newfound focus can carry over on the road. We will try to keep our guys out of the sun.”

The Gauchos played their first home matches of the season last week. UCSB regrouped after a straight-set loss to #1 USC, coming out firing against Pepperdine to beat the #8 Waves 3-0 for the first time since 2006. The Gauchos now own a .500 record in conference play.

“It feels good finally beating Pepperdine,” senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel said. “We learned a lot from both games last week and we are excited to take a trip to Hawaii. They lost a few players from last year, but we will respect them. If everything goes [according] to plan, hopefully we’ll come back with two more wins.”

Menzel and fellow senior outside hitter Cullen Irons have been forces to be reckoned with in the Mountain Pacific Sports Conference this year. Both are in the top 10 in the MPSF in kills per set. Defending national champion Stanford is the only other team to have two players in the top 10.

To minimize traveling expenses, Hawaii alternates years traveling and hosting teams. UCSB and Hawaii will play both conference matches in Honolulu this week, and the Gauchos will not host the Rainbow Warriors until next year. The schools split their two matches in Santa Barbara last season.

“They struggle in the middle, so that’s where we will target,” senior Scott Slaughter said. “If we serve tough, we should come out on top in both these matches. It’s all about going in with the right mindset.”

Both matches in Hawaii will be held at the Stan Sheriff Center and will start at 7:00pm.