After a loss against UC Davis last Saturday, the UCSB women’s volleyball team is preparing for its first away-weekend trip to face a pair of 0-3 Big West teams in UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton.

The Gauchos enter the weekend with a 7-7 overall and 2-1 Big West record. Both Irvine and Fullerton have had rough beginnings to this season, each having lost all three of their conference matches to Hawaii, CSUN and Long Beach through two weeks of conference play. The Anteaters currently sit in seventh place with an overall record of 10-7 while Fullerton finds itself one spot below at 6-10 overall.

“I think both Irvine and Fullerton are much improved teams on a year ago,” Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “They had a pretty tough draw for their first opponents, so I think that they’re going to be a challenge for us, but one that we are excited for.”

Going into this weekend, the Gauchos are averaging a .204 hitting percentage, 11.27 kills per set and 124 kills overall in conference play. Currently topping the league in digs per set is sophomore outside hitter Ali Spindt with an average of 4.51. Sophomore middle blocker Phoebe Grunt is also in the top-charts for overall hitting percentage, placing third and averaging .350.

“We are trying to clean up our side of the ball and being able to score easier from our passing — setting to attacking — and to make that simpler on our side,” Lantagne Welch said.

Irvine will enter the match on Friday with a .250 average kill percentage, and 14.1 average kills per set overall this season. In addition, Irvine’s junior outside hitter, Marisa Bubica is currently leading the league in kills per set and number of kills overall, averaging 4.18 this season, and 234 total kills. Sophomore setter, Shelley Anderson also tops the league charts in assists per set, averaging 10.88.

“We have been working hard in practice this week,” Spindt said. “I think if we go into this weekend with an aggressive mind set, go off of our loss last weekend, and really preform, we can take both of them down.”

For Fullerton, the team will enter on a four-game losing streak. The Titans are currently averaging 10.78 kills per set, a .149 hitting percentage and 9.78 assists per set in conference play. An offensive leader for Fullerton is junior middle blocker Holland Crenshaw who is averaging 2.95 kills per set and hitting for a .314 average this season.

“I think our team is going to be focused and ready to use every rep to improve,” Lantange Welch said. “I think they’re going to use practice more, and know that it will carry over and it’s important for us to help improve for this weekend.”

The match with UC Irvine begins at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, while the match at Fullerton will be held the next day at the same time.

A version of this article appeared on page 13 of October 9, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.