After falling Wednesday night in a heated contest, the No. 11 UCSB men’s volleyball team will look to gain revenge tonight when they host No. 8 Long Beach State.
While Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to No. 14 Northridge proved costly in the MPSF standings, a win against Long Beach could catapult the Gauchos up the conference standings and into playoff position.
“It’s everything [to make the playoffs],” junior middle blocker Dylan Davis said. “We know that we’re a team that can definitely compete with the best teams in this league right now, it’s just a matter of us getting that number eight seed at least. We’ve realized that for a while now. We’ve got to come out of this with a win.”
Previously falling at Long Beach on Feb. 17, by a 3-1 score, UCSB hopes they can take advantage of their home crowd to defeat a tough 49ers squad this time around.
Santa Barbara sits at 5-10 overall with a 3-8 mark in conference, one game behind Long Beach’s 4-7 mark (8-8 overall). The 49ers are currently tied with Northridge for seventh place in the conference, so a win for the Gauchos may put them in position for one of the eight playoff spots.
“Last time we played Long Beach, we were kind of sporadic, we were all over the place,” Davis said. “We couldn’t really get set, our passing was a little off, but our defense and blocking were pretty good. It’s just a matter of passing and staying focused if we want to come out on top.”
Coming off a momentous win over No. 1 UCLA the last time UCSB faced Long Beach, the 49ers were swept by the Bruins on the road on Wednesday night, marking their second loss in the last three matches.
UCSB may have the upper hand this time around, as Long Beach holds a 1-5 record on the road, compared to a 5-2 mark in home contests. The Gauchos, meanwhile, are hoping to improve on their 3-5 mark in home matches after returning from a four-game road trip.
“It’s going to be good, I’m excited to play in front of a home crowd again,” Davis said. “It’s always fun to play inside of Rob [Gym], so hopefully that should give us a little bit of momentum when we play Long Beach [tonight].”
On their road trip, UCSB finished with a 1-3 mark, highlighted by an impressive comeback victory over No. 5 BYU. The match against Long Beach marks the first of a five-game homestand that will last until the end of spring break when they will hit the road again.
Davis, who recorded career-highs in kills and blocks against Northridge with 22 and 14, hopes to carry over the impressive performances, but also coming along with a win this time around.
“Long Beach isn’t as tough as a serving team as Northridge, so hopefully our passing game should be a lot better,” Davis said. “I think we’re pretty prepared for the match [tonight].”
Despite losing to Long Beach earlier in the year, the Gauchos are in no way intimidated facing the 49ers, as they hope to capitalize on the opportunity to exact revenge for the loss.
“We look forward to getting them up here and playing them again,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said immediately after the loss to Long Beach in February. “I think it’s a team that we can compete with for sure.”
Rolling as of late, the Gaucho offense will try to keep their momentum against a 49ers defense ranking third in the conference in opponent hitting percentage.
Hoping to sustain their recent play, Davis and a trio of outside hitters in junior Miles Evans and freshmen Austin Kingi and Kevin Donohue formed an outstanding attacking squad against Northridge, totaling a combined 57 of the team’s 66 kills in the match.
First serve tonight against Long Beach is set for 7 p.m. in Rob Gym.