Riding high after an upset victory over No. 3 Stanford on Senior Night last weekend, No. 6 UCSB (14-12 overall, 11-9 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) takes on No. 13 Pepperdine in Malibu on Thursday night. With only two remaining matches left on the regular season schedule, the Gauchos are aiming to maintain momentum heading into the MPSF playoffs.
[media-credit id=20120 align=”alignright” width=”191″][/media-credit]“We’re already a confident team, but that win over Stanford was a confidence booster,” senior outside hitter Cullen Irons said. “It took us out of a bit of a slump. We’re going to be ready for whomever we see in the playoffs. We can’t take any game lightly.”
In front of their home crowd for the final time this year, the Gauchos defeated the defending national champion Cardinal by a score of 3-1 last weekend in the Thunderdome. UCSB took the victory behind season-high performances from both Irons and fellow senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel, who posted a combined 49 of the team’s 67 total kills.
The match against Pepperdine, along with a game scheduled for Saturday against No. 1 USC will have important playoff implications for the Gauchos. With wins over those two opponents, the team would move up to a fifth seed in the MPSF playoffs later this month, but a loss could cause them to drop as low as the seventh.
“We’ve got to play with the same focus we had versus Stanford,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “Some nights we have it, some nights we don’t. This time of year, we need that focus every match.”
Pepperdine (9-15 overall, 5-15 MPSF) comes off a loss in straight sets to No. 2 Brigham Young University in which the Waves managed to challenge the Cougars in each game. Back in January, the last time Pepperdine went up against the Gacuhos, UCSB crushed the Waves in three sets at home for the first time since 2006.
First serve in Malibu for Thursday’s match between UCSB and Pepperdine is set for 7 p.m. at Firestone Fieldhouse.