Currently on a three-game losing streak, the No. 12 UCSB men’s volleyball team will look to get back to its winning ways when they host UC San Diego tonight in the Thunderdome.
Losing to No. 2 Irvine on Wednesday, the Gauchos get a break in their tough schedule as they host the bottom team in the MPSF in UCSD.
“[Winning] is really important in order to even think about possibly the playoffs,” freshman outside hitter Austin Kingi said. “We’ve just got to roll over them like we should and move on from there.”
Wednesday’s loss in straight sets placed the Gauchos (5-12 overall, 3-10 MPSF) one-and-a-half games behind eighth place Northridge in the race for the final playoff spot. Facing a struggling team in UCSD could help push Santa Barbara in the right direction.
“It’d be pretty important to beat this team,” junior outside hitter Miles Evans said. “We basically need to beat this team to remain in the playoffs, so it’d be a huge win for us.”
UC San Diego is currently on an eight-game losing skid with a 3-15 record (1-12 MPSF). Sitting in last place in the MPSF, the Tritons have fallen in their previous 11 conference matches dating back to a Jan. 6 contest at Hawaii.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Kingi said. “Finally we can see who’s being the most effective, and see what we’re doing right, see what we’re improving on, and building as a team.”
The starting lineup for Santa Barbara may be in question against UCSD, as 13 different players participated in the match against Irvine, with no same staring lineup being featured in any two games. The sole player to appear in all three sets was junior middle blocker Dylan Davis.
For the Gauchos, Wednesday’s contest was their last of the season in Rob Gym. With the end of regular season basketball, the volleyball team will now make their way across campus to the Thunderdome for the duration of their home matches.
“I don’t think our level of play is going to change at all going from this gym to the next gym,” Evans said. “I think we’re going to like it a little more because it’s a nicer place. It’s going to be good.”
Expected to lead the Gauchos against UCSD are Evans, the team’s leader in kills, and Davis, who has increased his attack in the last two weeks of play. Also expected to contribute will be Kingi and fellow freshman outside hitter Kevin Donohue, who is second on the team in kills.
A pair of outside hitters in sophomore Vaun Lennon and junior Carl Eberts lead San Diego offensively, ranking first and second on the team in kills, respectively. San Diego is 2-5 on the road this season, and will travel to face UCSB for the first of two matches this season.
“We have to beat San Diego to go into the playoffs,” Evans said. “We’re looking forward to playing them. We’re going to take it to them, play our best volleyball and play as a team.”
First serve for today’s match against UCSD is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.