The No. 6 UCSB men’s volleyball team continues its series of road games this week with matches against No. 9 UC Irvine and UC San Diego.
UCSB enters the week with an overall record of 9-4, and a conference record of 8-4. The Gauchos are currently ranked in fourth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation alongside Long Beach State. The Anteaters hold a record of 10-8 (7-7) and are tied for eighth place with Stanford in the MPSF. The UCSD Tritons will host the Gauchos without having had a single win yet, with a record of 0-15 (0-14 MPSF). UCSD is currently in last place in the conference.
“Coming out 2-0 this week would be huge,” senior middle blocker Ryan Thompson said. “Irvine is a really good team. Although their record may not show it, it is going to be a tough match, especially playing at their house.”
On Friday night, the Gauchos will travel down to Irvine to take on the Anteaters. Earlier this season when UCSB hosted UCI, they lost to the Anteaters in a dramatic fifth set ending. UCSB held a 13-12 lead and reached match-point with a kill from senior opposite Evan Licht, but multiple attacking errors from UCSB allowed Irvine to score five points and take the game.
In order to be a dominant force this weekend, UCSB will not only need to keep its attacking errors at a minimum, but will also need to demonstrate strong serving and passing.
“We did well on the serve and pass last week against Stanford, we just didn’t execute other parts of our game plan,” junior outside hitter Kevin Donohue said.
The Gauchos will also need to keep a close eye on UCI’s junior opposite Zack La Cavera. La Cavera is currently leading Irvine with 205 kills on the season and a team-high 21 service aces. La Cavera was responsible for most of the kills that stole the win from the Gauchos back in January.
“In order to get the win against Irvine we need to win the serve and pass and come out with a lot of energy and make sure we sustain that energy through the final point,” sophomore libero Parker Boehle said.
The Gauchos will continue their trip down the coast to San Diego on Saturday night. Aside from having lost all of their matches this season, the Tritons do possess some standout individuals. Nick Iorfino and Mike Brunsting are the driving forces behind the UCSD offense. Brunsting is also leading the Tritons serving game, with 11 service aces on the season.
“The only thing I can really say about San Diego at this point is that they have a tough gym to play in,” Thompson said. “With that being said, we shouldn’t take the game lightly because that is when we get ourselves into trouble.”
UCSB will face UCI on Friday night, followed by UCSD on Saturday. Both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. start times.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of February 27, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Anna Kodelashvili of The Daily Nexus.