The No. 7 UCSB men’s volleyball team prepares for a week at home, coming off last Saturday’s big win against No. 3 Pepperdine. The Gauchos will face No. 13 Cal State Northridge tonight, followed by a game against No. 6 Long Beach on Friday.
After splitting their matches last week, the Gauchos now hold an overall record of 6-3 and a conference record of 5-3. They are currently tied for fourth place in the MPSF, alongside Long Beach State and the University of Hawaii.
“One game at a time; we just need to win the next game,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “If we keep doing that, we will be ready come playoff time.”
It is apparent after their two-game sweep against Hawaii a few weeks back and the more recent performance against top-ranked Pepperdine, that the Gauchos are stepping up their game right as the season reaches its halfway mark.
Sophomore setter Jonah Seif is a perfect example of the Gauchos’ improving level of play. Seif was named the MPSF player of the week after recording a triple-double last week against USC, and then following with a season-high 53 assists against Pepperdine. Seif also leads all conference setters with 1.16 blocks per set.
In addition to Seif’s impressive numbers, redshirt junior middle blocker Jake Staahl and senior middle blocker Ryan Thompson are ranked top ten nationally for blocks per set. Staahl currently holds the No. 1 ranking, averaging 1.61 blocks per set.
Between their top ranked statistics, and their impressive 5-1 record at home, the Gauchos are heading into Wednesdays game with some momentum behind them.
“We just need to take it one game at a time,” Seif said. “Northridge on Wednesday … we saw them a bunch in the preseason, I think three or four times, so we know what they do.”
The Matadors will enter Santa Barbara on a three-game losing streak and currently hold an overall record of 6-3 (2-5 Big West). Freshman Damani Lenore leads the Matadors offense with 81 kills on the season, and junior middle blocker Greg Faulkner leads the defense with 28 blocks.
Long Beach, on the other hand, is currently riding a three-game win streak and holds a record of 6-3 (5-3 Big West). Within its last three games Long Beach took down both top ranked Stanford and Pepperdine.
“Unfortunately we haven’t had the chance to play Long Beach yet, so it’s going to be a brand new thing this year,” Seif said. “That one is going to be a tough match, but I think that we are going to be ready for it.”
The Long Beach offense is currently led by senior Taylor Crabb who is ranked No. 1 nationally in kills per set, and currently leads with an average of 5.31 points per set.
“We just need to beat Long Beach in serve and pass, and everything else will come with it,” junior Weston Nielsen said.
Both tonight and Friday’s games are scheduled for 7 p.m. starts at Rob Gym.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of Feb. 12th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus.