After two weeks on the road, the UCSB women’s volleyball team returns to the Thunderdome on Saturday to take on conference foe UC Riverside. The Gauchos (11-8 overall, 4-2 Big West) need a win to stay tied for first place atop the conference.

“We’re really looking forward to playing at home again,” sophomore outside hitter Kara Sherrard said.

UCSB has only had two matches at home this season, but came out victorious in both of them, beating Pacific 3-1 on Sept. 30 and UC Davis 3-2 on Oct 1.

“We’re really excited to play at home,” senior libero Chelsey Lowe said. “We love playing in the Thunderdome … I think we play better.”

UC Riverside (4-15, 1-4) already has one more conference win than it did last season, where they finished at last place in the Big West. They are currently tied with UC Irvine at the bottom of the conference.

“UCR is better this year and we need to focus on not overlooking them,” Lowe said.

The Gauchos are looking to rebound from a tough 3-2 loss at Cal Poly on Wednesday. Santa Barbara was hardly competitive in the first set, losing 25-13, and is hoping to get out to a much stronger start against the Highlanders.

“I sure hope that we’ll have a better start [than against Cal Poly],” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “If we get out to a slow start like that again I’ll have to switch up our warm ups … we at least need a little more intensity.”

UCSB has won its last 26 matches against UCR and swept both meetings against them last season 3-0. Despite their past history, the team knows it needs to take every match seriously if they wish to remain at the top of the Big West.

“They upset Long Beach, so we don’t overlook anybody,” Gregory said.

The Highlanders beat Long Beach State, who is tied with UCSB for first place, 3-2 back on Oct. 1, their only conference win of the season so far. Since then, they have lost back-to-back matches 3-0, to UC Davis and Pacific.

Before the match gets underway, UCSB will have a Legend of the Dome ceremony to honor the late Judy Bellomo, a two-time volleyball All-American.

“Judy’s one of the best all time players who played for me,” Gregory said. “She is one of the best competitors to ever play for Santa Barbara … it would be nice if we rally [from Wednesday’s loss] and come back strong.”

Match time is set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Thunderdome.