This week is sure to be an exciting spectacle as the UCSB men’s volleyball team will visit No. 1 Long Beach State on Thursday. The Gauchos will play host to the 49ers the following day.
These next couple of games are also back-to-back Big West Conference matchups, as both schools will be fighting for the first place position in the league table standings.
The Gauchos win streak still currently stands at five in a row, as the team will work to the best of their abilities to keep their momentum alive. The last time UCSB faced the same opponent in back to back days was against BYU, whom they split the meetings evenly with at a sweep win and sweep loss of 3-0. Nationally speaking, the Gauchos are on the rise as they were just recently bumped up two spots, from No. 14 to No. 12, in the NCAA rankings.
Santa Barbara will continue to look towards their sophomore setter Randy DeWeese, who has been playing lights out as of recent considering both his offensive and defensive contributions. In terms of standout performances last week, junior middle blocker Connor Drake was recognized as the Big West Defensive Player of the Week for his blocking, as well as hitting, work against Fort Wayne and No. 10 Ball State.
As for the opposite side of the court, the 49ers have been almost flawless all season long. Long Beach State is currently undefeated through 17 games and have literally only given up 3 sets to their opponents throughout it all. This will easily be the Gauchos’ toughest challenge so far into the season, but it would also prove to be their greatest feat if they manage to topple, according to NCAA poll rankings, the current best men’s volleyball program in the nation.
Players to look out for would be their dynamic attacking duo in junior opposite Kyle Ensing and junior outside hitter TJ DeFalco. They are both nearing that 200-kill mark on the season as they remain almost even at 192 and 191 respectively. In particular, DeFalco’s production is standout even on the Big West league level as he is the statistical first place leader in the hitting percentage category, with an average of .422; Ensing follows nearby at fourth place with a .398 average.
Historically speaking, these two programs have been locked in heated competition as the Gauchos barely lead at 50-47. However, as of recent years, Long Beach State has displayed elite levels of play and has currently beaten UCSB in their past 4 matchups; their most recent victory resulting in a 3-0 clean sweep at Santa Barbara.
UCSB and Long Beach State are both currently sitting tied, at 2-0, atop the Big West Conference standings. Plenty will be on the line this week as win streaks and league dominance will start to come into question.
Tune in Thursday, March 15, as the Gauchos will be on the road versus the 49ers, then again on Friday, March 16, where reverse fixture match will be hosted at Santa Barbara’s Robertson Gymansium. Both matches will be set to start at 7 PM sharp.