Brandon Hopper prepares to strike the ball. Angie Banks/Daily Nexus

It’s a short week for the UCSB men’s volleyball team this time around, as the Gauchos are heading down to Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid for the first inaugural Big West Tournament.

The conference tournament is set to begin this Thursday when Santa Barbara goes up against CSUN for the first round of this conference postseason event.

This first round of the tournament will feature a very familiar foe in CSUN.
UCSB has lined up on the opposite side of the court twice already against the Matadors during the regular season.

The result between the two matches ultimately resulted in a 1-1 split — a win for the Gauchos at home and a loss while on the road — but expectations for the Blue and Gold still remain high.

Upon the conclusion of the Big West’s first league season, the CSUN Matadors were able to vault over the Gauchos in terms of league standings.

This occurred after they earned back-to-back wins against UC San Diego and as Santa Barbara allowed a 1-1 split versus UC Irvine.

As a result, UCSB’s fifth seed spot puts them in second to last in the Big West, at a 4-6 conference record, whilst CSUN finished just above them with a flat .500 overall of 5-5 in league play.

In terms of national standings, UCSB is the No. 12 program in the nation in the latest Men’s Volleyball Division 1 poll.

The Gauchos’ current overall record has them at 11-12 on the year, a .478 when it comes to winning percentage.

Their best ball has been played at home, 7-5, while on the road their record has been 4-7. Most recently, Santa Barbara is 1-3 in the month of April.

CSUN is also nationally ranked. As voted, they currently find themselves as a top 10 program at the No. 9 spot in Division 1 Men’s Volleyball.

The Matadors stand at an overall record of 15-10 on the season at a .600 win percentage. Northridge has so far excelled in its service aces, where they are second in the Big West with 139, only behind No. 1 Long Beach State.

When it comes to home and neutral play, they boast a comfortable 13-3 result. However, they tend to falter when away from home as they put up a lowly 2-7 while on the road.

In the month of April, CSUN is split at 2-2 and is currently coming off a two-game winning streak.

Standout performers for the Gauchos remain sophomore opposite Keenan Sanders and junior outside hitter Corey Chavers.

Between the two, they combine for a total of 502 kills on the year, practically half of the team’s total kills for the season. Sophomore setter Randy DeWeese also continues to run the show as he holds 609 total assists throughout all play under his name.

As for CSUN, senior opposite Arvis Greene is the clear-cut attacking leader as he totals 349 kills on offense on the year, almost 100 more kills than the runner-up on his team and good for the most in the Big West.

He’ll be thanking junior setter Sam Porter, who has tallied a total of 678 assists overall, for his help.

Historically speaking, the odds are in the Gauchos’ favor as they hold the leading advantage over CSUN with a series record of 53-40.

UCSB is also 4-1 in the last five matches against CSUN, the Matadors’ single victory over them this year, and their obvious overall improvement, being the outliers in this statistic.

It’s sure to be a close and exciting one this Thursday, April 19, as the Gauchos will be set to play versus the Matadors at approximately 7:30 p.m.

A version of this story appeared on p. 6 of the April 19th, 2018, edition of the Daily Nexus.