UCSB men’s volleyball (6-5 overall, 4-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) takes on fifth-ranked UCLA (8-5, 2-4 MPSF) tonight in Los Angeles for the first time this season. The team is coming off a weekend trip to Hawaii in which the Gauchos split a pair of matches with the Rainbow Warriors.

[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”160″][/media-credit] “This is a huge rivalry game,” senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter said. “We are all good friends, but friendships get thrown out the door when we hit the court.”

In one of the oldest rivalries in collegiate volleyball, the Bruins own a 116-29 overall record. UCSB has not won at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles since 2002.

The Gauchos defeated the Bruins three times in the preseason. Last time the two teams met, UCSB won 3-1 to advance to the final round of the UCSB Gaucho Invitational. Senior outside hitter Cullen Irons led the match with 18 kills.

“We’ve been successful against them this year,” Irons said. “We’ve built a bit of confidence. Now we need to make sure to get the win when it counts. We’ve had a couple of good practices getting ready to defend their middles. We’re amped.”

Coming off a victory at Hawaii last week, UCSB looks to carry over momentum into the match versus UCLA. The Gauchos lost the first match in Honolulu to split the weekend series and maintain a .500 record in conference play.

“We should have won both those games,” Slaughter said. “Serving hurt us. We have worked on that a lot in practice this week. It’s hard to beat a team more than three times, but if we play our game we will be fine. Everyone needs to play his roll and pass well. When we pass well, we put the ball away.”

The Bruins enter tonight’s match on a three-game losing streak, dropping a match at home versus #1 USC before losing two matches against #3 BYU in Utah last weekend.

First serve of tonight’s match in Los Angeles is set for 7 p.m. The tables turn on Friday when UCSB welcomes UCLA to Robertson Gymnasium.