Grady Yould dives forward to keep the ball in play. Dustin Harris/Daily Nexus

The regular season rolls on as the recently in-form tied for No. 14 UCSB men’s volleyball team will want to continue their winning ways. This week, the Gauchos are set to host the Fort Wayne Mastodons on Friday, then a nationally ranked program in the No. 10 Ball State Cardinals on Saturday.

Taking a break from conference play, these matchups will still prove just as challenging. They will also put the team’s overall stamina to the test as they prepare for next week’s pair of back to back Big West matches against conference and NCAA powerhouse: No. 1 Long Beach State.

The Gauchos are currently at a 7-5 overall record on the year, as they are also experiencing a three-game win streak following a couple of wins over conference counterparts UC San Diego and regular season opponent USC. In terms of conference standings, UCSB’s flawless 2-0 record is tied, at the moment, with Long Beach State for first place on the Big West league table.

As for this week’s first visitor, Fort Wayne boasts a 13-4 overall record so far through the season and is on a four- game win streak as of recent. However, their four total losses this season all come from top-10 nationally ranked NCAA programs; three of which, Ohio State, Loyola Chicago and Lewis, share the same MIVA Conference as the Mastodons. Between now and the Friday game, Fort Wayne will also travel this Wednesday to face Big West’s UC Irvine, so proper on-the-road rest will be an upcoming game factor.

One player to look out for on the Mastodons’ side is sophomore outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas who leads his team as the only player to break two hundred kills so far at 230 on the season. His partner in playmaking, junior setter Michael Keegan, also leads Fort Wayne in assists with 485, three times more than the next runner up.

The No. 10 weekend visitor, Ball State, currently holds an overall record of 10-7. Out of Santa Barbara and Fort Wayne, the Cardinals hold the longest current win streak at five in a row. They are also MIVA associates and are fourth in league rankings at 4-2, whilst Fort Wayne is fifth at 3-3. Nationally speaking, the Cardinals were previously 11th in NCAA ran kings until their bump up the leader boards.

Ball State’s team leaders include their trifecta of attacking production in outside attackers, sophomore Blake Reardon, sophomore Matt Szews and senior Matt Walsh. Together, the trio combines for a whopping 470 kills this season, more than half of the team total.

In UCSB news, a pair of Gauchos is being recognized with Big West Player of the Week honors. Sophomore middle blocker Keenan Sanders is Player of the Week as his top offensive performances have him hitting .469. He also averaged a 5.43 kills per set ratio last week. Sophomore setter Randy DeWeese earns the Defensive Player of the Week award after a 1.57 in blocks and a 2.86 in digs.

The Gauchos will face Fort Wayne this Friday, March 9, and Ball State this Saturday, March 10, both at 7 p.m. in the Robertson Gymnasium.