After splitting its matches last week, the No. 7 UCSB men’s volleyball team returns home from its two-week road series to take on No. 5 UCLA and UCSD.
The Gauchos enter this week with an overall record of 10-5 and a conference record of 9-5. They are currently tied for fifth place alongside University of Hawaii in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings.
Santa Barbara will be looking to take care of unfinished business against the Bruins tonight. Earlier this season when they met, UCLA swept the Gauchos in three sets in Westwood. This time around, the Gauchos have their home advantage working in their favor. At home in Rob Gym, UCSB has maintained a strong 7-1 record.
“Whoever wins the serve and pass battle is going to win the match,” Assistant Coach Cullen Irons said. “If we can contest like we can, nobody, including UCLA, is going to be able to stop us.”
The last time they met, UCSB was unable to recover after UCLA came out of the gates will all cylinders firing, scoring 10 out of the first 15 points. In addition to winning the serve and pass battle, the Gauchos will need to enter the first set ready to play. Something the Gauchos have struggled with this season is finding their momentum too late into the game.
“This week’s focus is just being ready to go from the start instead of waiting for a wakeup call,” Irons said.
Earlier in the season when the Gauchos and Bruins faced off, UCSB’s senior outside hitter Matt Hanley led the team with nine kills. This game will be especially important for Hanley, not only because he used to be a member of the UCLA team, but also because it could be the last time he faces off against the Bruins in his college volleyball career.
Hanley and the Gaucho offense will head into tonight’s game with momentum behind them. They are coming off a 3-0 sweep against. In that same game, Hanley had a career high night with 20 kills, hitting a .731 clip.
Players to watch on UCLA are senior outside hitters Robart Page and Gonzalo Quiroga. Both players led the team in kills last time they played the Gauchos, and both players are leading the Bruins overall in kills for the season.
UCLA will enter the match with an overall record of 13-5 (10-4 MPSF), and is currently ranked second in the MPSF standings.
Tonight’s match against UCLA is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start time in Rob Gym. Looking forward, the Gauchos will play UCSD on Friday night at 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of March 5, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.